Top Alachua County 2022 football games previewed  

Buchholz QB Creed Whittemore (2) and RB Quinton Cutler (10)
Buchholz QB Creed Whittemore (2) and RB Quinton Cutler (10) return for the Bobcats, who are coming off a Class 7A state semifinals appearance. (Photo by C.J. Gish)
Photo by C.J. Gish

In 2021, Alachua County had two football teams make deep postseason runs as Hawthorne was the Class 1A state runner-up and Buchholz advanced to the Class 7A state semifinals. 

Both schools have key games this season and highlight the top county Game-of-the-Week list with six contests total. Plus, Gainesville High — which won a district title and made the postseason last year — appears three times, with two of those games against their city rivals, showing the importance of rivalries in the area. 

We’re a little over a month away from kickoff. Earlier this month, the top Tri-County football games were previewed and on Monday members of the media met with high school football players and coaches at the North Central Media Day

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Here’s a weekly breakdown of the top Alachua County football games this fall: 

Thursday, Aug. 25 – Columbia (Lake City) at Buchholz (Gainesville) (Citizens Field) 

This is a great season opener featuring teams who made the playoffs in 2021. 

The host Bobcats advanced to the Class 7A state semifinals last year, before falling at nationally ranked St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale). Buchholz finished 12-2 and topped the all-classification regional rankings despite the blowout loss to Aquinas. 

“I know it definitely left a bad taste in our mouth, but I think that when we went apples to apples, the kids felt like they were able to compete at a really high level,” said Buchholz coach Mark Whittemore. 

Quarterback Tyler Jefferson, a Central Michigan University commit, transferred from Hawthorne to Columbia, which lost at home to Riverside (Jacksonville) in the first round of the 6A state playoffs. It will be a matchup of Division 1 QBs that also features University of Florida commit Creed Whittemore of Buchholz. 

Another key matchup is Columbia safety/linebacker Jaden Robinson, who recently committed to South Carolina, vs. Bobcats’ wide receiver Jaren Hamilton, who has an offer from Alabama. Hamilton transferred from P.K. Yonge (Gainesville). 

Friday, Aug. 26 – Vanguard (Ocala) at Gainesville (Citizens Field) 

Gainesville RB John Cooper
Photo by C.J. Gish Gainesville running back John Cooper

Ok, here’s an exception. I did say it was a Game-of-the-Week, but this game at Citizens Field to start the season on a Friday night in Gainesville was too big not to include. 

There’s always something special about Alachua County vs. Marion County matchups. 

“Interesting game,” said Vanguard coach Edwin Farmer. “Gainesville High School is like a rivalry game. It’s always been that way.” 

Farmer said he remembers being the defensive coordinator and it always being a hard game at the hedges, and “trying to find a way to win a football game at Citizens Field.” 

“It’s always a difficult task,” he said. “You’ve got to come in ready to play. Gainesville is a good team that we have early to get us started for the season.” 

The Knights (11-1), who advanced to the Class 6A-Region 2 Final last year before losing at home to Jones (Orlando), are young but talented. 

“This team can be very good,” Farmer said. “It’s going to be based on these guys playing good football and staying away from mistakes, being disciplined. They’ve got to be committed to do the right thing. We had a great summer. If they just stay on track we’re looking forward to another great season.” 

GHS, which won the 6A-District 4 title last year, finished 8-3 following a loss to Lincoln (Tallahassee) in the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs. The Hurricanes were a different team at the end of the year than the team that lost 30-8 at Vanguard in the season opener. 

Friday, Sept. 2 – P.K. Yonge (Gainesville) at Hawthorne 

P.K. Yonge lost 16 seniors, plus a few others to the transfer portal, from a team that made the second round of the Class 3A state playoffs last season. The Blue Wave, who finished 8-4, lost at home to Hawthorne, 24-0, in Week 2 last season. 

This time, they’re on the road. 

“Hawthorne is a great environment to play at,” said P.K. Yonge coach Kevin Doelling. “That’s a fun game for us. They have a really great football team. They’ve got a great head coach.” 

Both teams will have a game under their belt. P.K. Yonge opens at home against Eastside (Gainesville) on Friday, Aug. 26, while Hawthorne travels to Middleburg. 

“It’s everything you want to see at the beginning of the year,” Doelling said. “You’ve got to be battled tested if you want to make a run in the playoffs.” 

Hawthorne RB Brian James (13) Stanley Cooks (52) and Mozell Williams (55)
Photo by C.J. Gish Hawthorne RB Brian James (13) will follow the blocks of Stanley Cooks (52) and Mozell Williams (55) as the Hornets look to return to their third straight Class 1A title game.

Friday, Sept. 9 – Buchholz (Gainesville) at Eastside (Gainesville) (Citizens Field) 

The winner of this game gets the inside track on the city championship. It’s about pride and bragging rights too. 

“The Rams have a new coach so there’s going to be invigoration there,” Whittemore said. “We’re going to be nervous as a bunch of long tail cats in a room full of rocking chairs. You better believe that because coach (Eastside’s Harold ‘Gator’ Hoskins) is going to do it. He’s going to do it right.” 

Eastside has struggled recently with just five total wins over the past three seasons. However, Ram Nation is hoping that their new head coach, who is an Eastside alum, can turn the program around. 

“I’m extremely excited,” Hoskins said. “It feels great to be back at my old high school to kind of give back to the community and give back to the guys. I’m excited.” 

Friday, Sept. 16 – Newberry at Hawthorne 

Newberry WR Mike Moore
Photo by C.J. Gish Newberry wide receiver Mike Moore

A pair of schools on opposite sides of Alachua County go head-to-head in this one. 

The Hornets won this game big last year, 48-7 on the road, but two years ago it took a late score for the Hornets to edge the Panthers, 20-14. 

“Always a tough challenge just to play Hawthorne but definitely going to Hawthorne is something we look forward to because they are the standard right now in 1A in our area,” said Newberry coach Ed Johnson. “If you want to be the best you’ve got to beat the best. That’s how we look at it.” 

Friday, Sept. 23 – Buchholz (Gainesville) at Vanguard (Ocala) 

“Buchholz is a great football team,” Farmer said. “They’re very competitive, they play good football, and they’re disciplined. We saw them earlier in the spring. I thought our guys underestimated them. I didn’t because I know Coach Whittemore is a good football coach.  

“If you had to pick one of our games to come see, I would definitely say come see the Vanguard and Buchholz game at Booster Stadium because it’s going to be a good one.” 

The Bobcats have lost four in a row in the series and they haven’t won at Vanguard since 2004. 

“It’s always tough at Booster,” Whittemore said. “It’s always very tough to come out of there with a W. The kids know that. We’ll be strapped up.” 

Friday, Sept. 30 – Newberry at Williston 

Hall of Fame coach Robby Pruitt is back in Florida and looking to turn around the Red Devils football program. 

“Williston’s got some energy going right now,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot of people talking about Williston. It’s always been a big rivalry, so I’m looking forward to going there and seeing how that Friday night turns out.” 

The two teams took a hiatus last year. Two years ago, the Panthers edged the Red Devils, 26-24, on the road. 

“If we can win two games, that would be a 50% increase,” said Pruitt, who noted Williston had just one win all of last season (at Cottondale). “But the community has been awesome. I think that’s been the best part of the job for me. They are eager and hungry and want to do things that it takes to have a winning program.” 

Thursday, Oct. 6 – Gainesville at Buchholz (Gainesville) (Citizens Field) 

It’s UF Homecoming weekend in Gainesville so this city showdown is on a Thursday night. 

Last year the Hurricanes played the Bobcats tough and only trailed 6-3 at the half, but special teams were the difference in a 34-3 win that was much closer than the final score indicated. 

“They were 8-2 last year,” Whittemore said. “It’s not like they were ‘Ned In the First Reader.’ Coach Dock had a tremendous game plan and we expect the same this year, so it’s never a gimme.” 

The eight wins last season by GHS were twice as many victories as they had from the previous two seasons combined. But Buchholz won 12 games, including a 37-14 win against Nease (Pone Vedra) in the 7A-Region 1 Final, to advance to its first state semifinal since 1995. 

“They (Buchholz) obviously had a great season,” said GHS assistant coach Christian Badics, whose son Cooper was an All Area kicker for the Hurricanes. “We thought we were going to go into halftime, 6-6, but the blocked field goal happened and things spun out of control in the second half,” 

Friday, Oct. 14 – Hawthorne at Union County (Lake Butler) 

A Class 1A showdown between the visiting Hornets and the Tigers. 

Union County and Newberry are the only 1A schools to play the Hornets this season. 

“It’s stupid not to play that game,” said Union County coach Andrew Thomas. “We’re right down the road from each other and both of us are good programs so I’m looking forward to that one.” 

Hawthorne, which has won three in a row in the series — including a 30-20 home win in the last meeting in 2020— plays a Tigers’ team that went 10-0 during the regular season last year before falling to Chiefland in the 1A Region 3 Final.  

“We have a solid schedule to help us get ready for the playoffs,” said Hawthorne coach Cornelius Ingram, who has led the Hornets to back-to-back Class 1A state championship game appearances. “That’s the formula. It’s been working so far.” 

Friday, Oct. 21 – St. Francis Catholic Academy (Gainesville) at Oak Hall School (Gainesville) 

Oak Hall TE Dylan Provencher
Photo by C.J. Gish Oak Hall tight end Dylan Provencher

Friday night lights features a trio of big games as Gainesville plays in a rematch of last year’s district championship game at St. Augustine, Buchholz travels to Bartram Trail (St. Johns), and Hawthorne hosts North Marion (Citra). 

However, this small school showdown gets the nod with a pair of Alachua County rivals going head-to-head. 

“It’s going to be weird because Coach (Scott) McDaniel is not going to be the coach and this will be first year not coaching against him,” said Oak Hall coach R.J. Fuhr, who is entering his fifth season as head coach of the Eagles. “I love Coach McDaniel. In 2014, my first year at Oak Hall, I coached under him.” 

James Langham takes over for McDaniel, so although there is a new face on the Wolves’ sideline, it won’t change what this game means to both sides. 

“St. Francis is always the game that is circled,” Fuhr said. “You kind of throw the records away. It’s a rivalry game, a respectful rivalry, programs are similar. We’ve had the upper hand the last few years but that always ebbs and flows. The kids always get excited about that game.” 

Friday, Oct. 28 – Trinity Catholic (Gainesville) at P.K. Yonge (Gainesville) 

“Rematch of last year’s playoff game,” Doelling said. “Hopefully we will be healthy when we see them. When we saw them last year we had just lost Jaren (Hamilton) and AJ (quarterback Aaron Small) ended up breaking his ankle early in the first quarter.” 

The Celtics (7-3) defeated the Blue Wave (8-4) in the second round of the Class 3A state playoffs, before falling to Florida High (Tallahassee) in the regional final. 

“They’re going to be a tough team,” Doelling said. “As long as I continue to do my job, and these boys continue to learn, I think we’ll be in a good situation come the end of the year.” 

Friday, Nov. 4 – Eastside (Gainesville) at Gainesville (Citizens Field) 

Buchholz (Gainesville) at Bolles (Jacksonville) is a huge game, but it’s hard to pick it over a city rivalry, especially when it’s Eastside alum Harold Hoskins’ first game vs. GHS as a coach. 

There’s one thing that Hoskins remembers about his playing days at Eastside. 

“Winning,” he said. “We had some great coaches, some great guys, some great teammates, and we worked really, really, really hard.” 

GHS has won 14 in a row in the series so expect the Rams to be fired up under their new head coach. 

Weekly Alachua County football schedules 

Friday, Aug. 19 (PRESEASON) 

Hawthorne at Ed White (Jacksonville), 6:30 p.m. 

Buchholz (Gainesville) at Trinity Catholic (Ocala), 7 p.m. 

Wildwood at Newberry, 7 p.m. 

Oak Hall School (Gainesville) at P.K. Yonge (Gainesville), 7 p.m. 

St. Francis Catholic Academy (Gainesville) at Franklin County (Eastpoint), 7 p.m. 

Santa Fe (Alachua) at West Nassau (Callahan), 7:30 p.m. 

Eastside (Gainesville) at Chiefland, 7:30 p.m. 

Gainesville at North Marion (Citra) 

Thursday, Aug. 25 

Columbia (Lake City) at Buchholz (Gainesville), 7 p.m. 

Friday, Aug. 26 

Hawthorne at Middleburg, 7 p.m. 

St. Joseph Academy (St. Augustine) at Oak Hall School (Gainesville), 7 p.m. 

Eastside (Gainesville) at P.K. Yonge (Gainesville), 7 p.m. 

St. Francis Catholic Academy (Gainesville) at Indian Rocks Christian (Largo), 7 p.m. 

Santa Fe (Alachua) at Newberry, 7:30 p.m. 

Vanguard (Ocala) at Gainesville, TBA 

Thursday, Sept. 1 

Keystone Heights at Eastside (Gainesville), 7 p.m. 

Friday, Sept. 2 

Gainesville at Bishop Moore (Orlando), 7 p.m. 

Bishop Snyder (Jacksonville) at Oak Hall School (Gainesville), 7 p.m. 

Santa Fe Catholic (Lakeland) at St. Francis Catholic Academy (Gainesville), 7 p.m. 

P.K. Yonge (Gainesville) at Hawthorne, 7:30 p.m. 

Riverview (Sarasota) at Buchholz (Gainesville), 7:30 p.m. 

Newberry at Fort White, 7:30 p.m. 

Lanier County (Lakeland, GA) at Santa Fe (Alachua), 7:30 p.m. 

Thursday, Sept. 8 

Trinity Catholic (Ocala) at Gainesville, 7 p.m. 

Friday, Sept. 9 

Hawthorne at Terry Parker (Jacksonville), 6:30 p.m. 

Buchholz (Gainesville) at Eastside (Gainesville), 7 p.m. 

Mount Dora Christian Academy at P.K. Yonge (Gainesville), 7 p.m. 

Santa Fe (Alachua) at Palatka, 7 p.m. 

St. Francis Catholic Academy (Gainesville) at Aucilla Christian (Monticello), 7 p.m. 

Newberry at Trenton, 7:30 p.m. 

Oak Hall School (Gainesville) at Seven Rivers Christian (Lecanto), 7:30 p.m. 

Thursday, Sept. 15 

Clay (Green Cove Springs) at Gainesville, 7 p.m. 

Friday, Sept. 16 

Bradford (Starke) at Eastside (Gainesville), 7 p.m. – HC 

Buchholz (Gainesville) at Creekside (St. Johns), 7 p.m. 

Union County (Lake Butler) at P.K. Yonge (Gainesville), 7 p.m. 

Riverside Christian (Trenton) at Oak Hall School (Gainesville), 7 p.m. 

First Academy (Leesburg) at St. Francis Catholic Academy (Gainesville), 7 p.m. 

Newberry at Hawthorne, 7:30 p.m. 

North Marion (Citra) at Santa Fe (Alachua), 7:30 p.m. 

Friday, Sept. 23 

Oak Hall School (Gainesville) at Eagle’s View (Jacksonville), 7 p.m. 

Seven Rivers Christian (Lecanto) at St. Francis Catholic Academy (Gainesville), 7 p.m. 

Gainesville at Santa Fe (Alachua), 7:30 p.m. 

Buchholz (Gainesville) at Vanguard (Ocala), 7:30 p.m. 

Union County (Lake Butler) at Newberry, 7:30 p.m. 

OFF – Eastside (Gainesville), P.K. Yonge (Gainesville) 

Friday, Sept. 30 

Gainesville at Menendez (St. Augustine), 7 p.m. 

Eastside (Gainesville) at North Marion (Citra), 7 p.m. 

Newberry at Williston, 7:30 p.m. 

P.K. Yonge (Gainesville) at Santa Fe (Alachua), 7:30 p.m. 

OFF – Oak Hall School (Gainesville) 

Thursday, Oct. 6 

Oak Hall School (Gainesville) at Harvest Community (Jacksonville), 7 p.m. 

Gainesville at Buchholz (Gainesville), 7 p.m. 

Friday, Oct. 7 

Gibbs (St. Petersburg) at Hawthorne, 7 p.m. 

Ridgeview (Orange Park) at Eastside (Gainesville), 7 p.m. 

P.K. Yonge (Gainesville) at West Nassau (Callahan), 7 p.m. 

St. Francis Catholic Academy (Gainesville) at St. Joseph Academy (St. Augustine), 7 p.m. 

Suwannee (Live Oak) at Santa Fe (Alachua), 7:30 p.m. 

OFF – Newberry 

Thursday, Oct. 13 

Matanzas (Palm Coast) at Gainesville, 7 p.m. 

Friday, Oct. 14 

Oak Hall School (Gainesville) at Cedar Creek Christian (Jacksonville), 7 p.m. 

P.K. Yonge (Gainesville) at St. Joseph Academy (St. Augustine), 7 p.m. 

Melbourne Central Catholic at St. Francis Catholic Academy (Gainesville), 7 p.m. 

Eastside (Gainesville) at Newberry, 7:30 p.m. 

Oakleaf (Orange Park) at Buchholz (Gainesville), 7:30 p.m. 

Hawthorne at Union County (Lake Butler), 7:30 p.m. 

OFF – Santa Fe (Alachua) 

Friday, Oct. 21 

St. Francis Catholic Academy (Gainesville) at Oak Hall School (Gainesville), 7 p.m. 

Newberry at P.K. Yonge (Gainesville), 7 p.m. 

Gainesville at St. Augustine, 7 p.m. 

Buchholz (Gainesville) at Bartram Trail (St. Johns), 7 p.m. 

Eastside (Gainesville) at Belleview, 7 p.m. 

North Marion (Citra) at Hawthorne, 7 p.m. 

Santa Fe (Alachua) at Union County (Lake Butler), 7:30 p.m. 

Thursday, Oct. 27 

Fleming Island (Orange Park) at Buchholz (Gainesville), 7 p.m. 

Friday, Oct. 28 

Bronson at St. Francis Catholic Academy (Gainesville), 7 p.m. 

Santa Fe (Alachua) at Eastside (Gainesville), 7 p.m. 

Trinity Catholic (Gainesville) at P.K. Yonge (Gainesville), 7 p.m. 

Dixie County (Cross City) at Newberry, 7:30 p.m. 

OFF – Gainesville, Hawthorne 

Friday, Nov. 4 

St. Francis Catholic Academy (Gainesville) at Bell, 7 p.m. 

Astronaut (Titusville) at Hawthorne, 7 p.m. 

Newberry at South Sumter (Bushnell), 7:30 p.m. 

Eastside (Gainesville) at Gainesville, 7:30 p.m. 

P.K. Yonge (Gainesville) at Keystone Heights, 7:30 p.m. 

Fort White at Santa Fe (Alachua), 7:30 p.m. 

Buchholz (Gainesville) at Bolles (Jacksonville), 7:30 p.m. 

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