The Buchholz Bobcats football team is partying like it’s 1991.
But there is still plenty of work left to do to capture a state title.
Buchholz took care of Ponte Vedra Nease 37-14 at Citizens Field on Friday night to capture the 7A Region 1 title and advance to the state semifinals for the first time in 30 years.
Buchholz (11-1) used the same formula that has worked thoughout this dominant season: a stifling defense and big plays from their sophomore quarterback Creed Whittemore.
Whittemore threw for two touchdowns while running for another 25-yard score as the Bobcats scored 30 unanswered points to breeze past the Panthers.
“He (Creed) has learned how to work so well within what the team needs,” Creed’s father and Buchholz coach Mark Whittemore said. “He makes a lot of good decisions too but is impressive in what he can do on the field.”
Buchholz scored on their opening drive as a big play from Whittemore to junior wide receiver Jacarree Kelly set up a 1-yard touchdown run by fullback EJ Gadson.
But Nease (9-4) answered right back, as senior Dom Henry scored on a 4-yard run on a reverse to tie the game at 7-all. That opening touchdown drive caught the Bobcats and their dominant defense by surprise.
“Nease is a scrappy team, and an excellent offensive team,” Mark Whittemore said. “We thought we might be in for a battle and knew this would be a challenge for our defense.”
Challenge accepted and won by the Buchholz defense as the Bobcats didn’t allow another touchdown until Nease’s final drive of the game.
Meanwhile the Buchholz offense also scored on their second drive, capped off by the touchdown run by Creed Whittemore as he weaved through Nease defenders. The extra point was blocked but Buchholz led for good 13-7.
The second quarter was a wild one, and while only three points were scored the two teams combined for two blocked field goals and three turnovers in the period. The Bobcats kicked a 29-yard field goal to extend the lead to 16-7 at halftime.
Nease was right in the game, and would receive the kick in the second half. But the Buchholz defense stopped the Panthers and forced them to punt, and after a short Nease punt Bobcats only had to move 30 yards to extend the lead to 23-7 as Creed Whittemore found Kelly for a 16-yard TD hookup.
The Bobcats sacked Nease junior quarterback Marcus Stokes on three straight plays on one possession in the third quarter.
“Our defense is very good,” Mark Whittemore said. “Our defensive line especially is one of the best in the state and we just have a bunch of guys who can make plays on that side of the ball.
Buchholz finally put the game away in the fourth quarter, scoring another 16-yard pass from Creed Whittemore to senior wide receiver Quan Lee, and senior Omarion Littles returned an interception 70 yards for the final Bobcats score.
Coming up in the 7A state semifinals next Friday Buchholz will face it’s toughest test yet, travelling to Fort Lauderdale to play national and state powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas. An upset win there would send the Bobcats back to Fort Lauderdale for the state championship game at DRV PINK Stadium the week before Christmas.
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