There was something special about Buchholz’s 34-3 win against rival Gainesville at Citizen’s Field on Thursday night.
In front of a packed house, the Bobcats rode the play of their special teams to outscore the rival Hurricanes 28-0 in the second half for their third straight win in the series.
Expectations were high for both teams, which entered the game with identical 4-1 records.
On its opening drive, Buchholz faced a 4th-and-16 deep in GHS territory when quarterback Creed Whittemore found wide receiver Quan Lee across the middle for an 18 yard pass play and a first down, coupled with a face mask penalty, to put the ball at the GHS 6-yard line.
On the next play, EJ Gadson ran it in for a 6-0 lead with 5:55 to play in the opening quarter.
However, Gainesville’s defense kept them in it in the opening half.
Sophomore Cooper Badics drilled a 37-yard field goal with 11:41 to play in the second quarter as GHS cut the deficit in half at 6-3.
GHS transfer Nay’ron Jenkins blocked a 43-yard field goal by Badics with six seconds to play in the half to keep it a one-score game at the break.
The blocked kick set the tone for Buchholz in the second half.
“The first half didn’t disappoint and we were able to put some things together with a couple of big punt returns and get that thing turned around,” said Buchholz coach Mark Whittemore.
After Gainesville’s opening drive of the second half stalled deep in their own territory, Jacarree Kelly returned a punt 40 yards for the score with 9:16 to play in the third quarter for a 13-3 lead.
“We decided to put two returners back this week and it really, really paid dividends,” Whittemore said. “I can’t be more pleased with that whole unit. Our special teams were spectacular, and obviously their punt return yardage was negligible.”
Following a one-yard sneak for a score by Buchholz quarterback Creed Whittemore for a 20-3 lead with 6:24 to play in the third quarter, the Bobcats did it again.
This time it was Lee, who raced down the left sidelines for a 53-yard punt return for a touchdown with 5:14 to play in the third quarter and a 27-3 lead.
Lee also had a 38-yard touchdown reception called back on a holding penalty.
“He’s a guy that not only does he make plays but he takes people and allows them to make plays by getting double teamed,” Whittemore said. “It opened up some avenues to do some things because of the danger he is on offense.”
Meanwhile, the Buchholz defense kept the Hurricanes out of the end zone.
“We play really good defense,” said Whittemore, who noted his team only giving up 16 points earlier this year to defending 4A state champion Cardinal Gibbons (Ft. Lauderdale). “We’re going to hang our hat on that and continue doing that.”
Lee was recognized as the Sonic Drive-In Player of the Game after his performance.
“We started off slow but we knew it was going to be a dog fight,” Lee said. “They gave us their best shot but we kept fighting and came out with the win.”
Gainesville, which dropped to 4-2, will host Middleburg next Friday in a key Class 6A-District 4 game at Citizen’s Field.
“We need to watch our film and start back next week,” said Gainesville coach Dock Pollard.
Amarius Hale finished off the scoring with 2:41 to play on a 9-yard touchdown run for Buchholz (5-1), which will travel to Chiles (Tallahassee) next Friday for a Class 7A-District 2 game.
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