New district, same results for Gunter
WHITEWRIGHT — Cole Lemons has been coming up with big catches through the first month of the season for Gunter. So it was no surprise that if the opponent throws the ball in his direction, he can haul those in as well.
From his spot at defensive back, Lemons intercepted two passes, returning one 35 yards for a touchdown, to lead the No. 2 ranked defending 3A Division II state champions to a 31-14 win over Whitewright in the District 8-3A (II) opener.
“Whitewright had a good plan and they wanted to limit our possessions,” Gunter head coach Jake Fieszel said. “And for Cole to contest that — it was huge.”
Lemons entered the game with six TD catches in the first month of the season but his presence on defense loomed large in this one for Gunter (4-1, 1-0), which picked off three passes in the first half which turned into 21 points as part of a 24-0 half-time advantage. The loss snapped a three-game winning streak by Whitewright (3-2, 0-1).
Cooper Wade ended Whitewright’s first possession — a 14-play, 54-yard drive to the Gunter 21 — when he cut in front of a receiver at the Gunter 19-yard line to pick off Whitewright quarterback Kayden Carraway’s throw.
Gunter drove all the way down to the Whitewright three-yard line where quarterback Hudson Graham capped the drive with a TD plunge. Graham finished with 35 rushing yards on eight carries. Graham also completed 10-of-15 passes for 92 yards.
Whitewright’s ensuing drive lasted three plays before Lemons’ picked off an errant throw and rambled 35 yards into the end zone to score on the first play of the second quarter, giving Gunter a 14-0 lead.
Lemons got his second interception with around three minutes remaining in the first half, when he picked off Carraway at the Gunter 40 and returned the ball 48 yards down to the Whitewright 12-yard line.
Three plays later, Ethan Sloan slammed his way into the end zone on a 12-yard run to give Gunter a 21-0 advantage.
Whitewright head coach Kevin Wiggins said offensively they did what they wanted to do: shorten the game with long offensive possessions. It was just devastating for Whitewright when those long possessions ended up as turnovers instead of points.
Gunter began its final first-half possession with 49 seconds left and drove from its 40 down to the Whitewright 15. With two seconds remaining, Logan Hubbard connected on a 32-yard field goal to end the half, giving Gunter a 24-0 halftime lead.
“We have a lot of confidence in Logan,” Fieszel said. “It was great to get him an opportunity to kick one like that. It was good for our special teams.”
Saul Rodriguez capped Gunter’s nine-play drive to open the third quarter when he plunged into the end zone on a 3-yard touchdown run and increasing the lead to 31-0.
In the fourth quarter, Whitewright scored both of its touchdowns. Carraway found Trevor McCartney on a 22-yard touchdown strike with just over five minutes remaining.
The final score came in the game’s final seconds from the 3-yard line when Aaron Pitt snared a Carraway pass in the back of the end zone. Carraway found Reilly Evans for the two-point conversion.
Carraway finished the game 13-of-18 passing for 127 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. He also led the home team in rushing with 43 yards in 20 carries. Evans led the team with eight catches for 83 yards.
“The kids have a lot of fight in them,” Wiggins said. “They don’t know when to quit and that’s a good quality.”
Gunter running back Ashton Bennett had 33 yards on five carries while Sloan led with five catches for 53 yards. Lemons finished with five catches for 39 yards.
Whitewright will look to get back on track when it travels to Blue Ridge on Friday while Gunter will host Bells in a match-up of district champions from last season with the winner holding the inside track to the 8-3A (II) crown.
District 8-3A (II)