GILMER, La (KMSS/KTAL) – For the second straight season, the Gilmer Buckeyes will be competing for a state championship. After falling to Carthage in last year’s title game, the Buckeyes are hoping for better results this time around against China Spring, who knocked out the Bulldogs in the semifinals, ending Carthage’s 41-game win streak.

It has been seven years since the Buckeyes brought home the trophy, and Head Coach Alan Metzel knows how much a championship would mean to the Gilmer community.

“When you talk about the tight-knitness, it doesn’t matter if you’re in the band, the drill team, the AG department, the art department, the whatever department, you’re a Gilmer Buckeye,” said Metzel. “We fight for each other, we stand together, and so to be able to do something that rallies the whole town, it’s a special thing. We want that for the town, for our school, and we’re excited to get to go and put it all on the line Friday.”

The Buckeyes will have someone who knows a thing or two about winning state championships with Gilmer cheering them on when they take the field at AT&T Stadium. Jeff Traylor, the current Head Coach at UTSA and former leader of the Buckeyes for 15 years, won three state titles during his time with Gilmer. Traylor said he is proud of how the program has grown into a state powerhouse.

“I’m so happy for Alan Metzel and all those guys,” said Traylor. “Those are my former staff members, some of those guys are my former players who got to go to college because of football and got their schools paid for. Now they’re back teaching at school, being role models for those same kids that were role models for them all those years ago. I’m thrilled for them. They’ve done a heck of a job.”

Gilmer and China Spring square off in the Class 4A Division II title game Friday, Dec. 17 at 3 p.m.