In 2021, the Buchholz football team enjoyed its best season since advancing to the final four in 1995.
The Bobcats (12-2) finished one game shy of a state championship game appearance, falling at nationally ranked St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale) in the Class 7A playoffs.
And a strong contingent of that offense highlights the big school first team All Area offense, which includes the all-time leading receiver in Alachua County history.
Quan Lee, who signed with UCF, was Buchholz’s most valuable player this season, according to head coach Mark Whittemore.
“As a returner, receiver, running back and corner, he was electric,” he said. “He plays with a tenacity that is special to watch.”
Last season, Lee (52 catches for 1,021 yards) earned a spot on the 2020 All Area first team after becoming the first Buchholz receiver to go over 1,000 yards receiving since the early 2000s.
This year, the senior, who drew more coverage and attention, just missed a 1,000-yard receiving season (46 catches for 924 yards). However, he averaged 8.85 yards per carry for an additional 224 rushing yards and finished with 14 scores on offense.
He also had four punt returns for a touchdown. USA Today ranked Lee among the top 10 players in the state for the Class of 2022.
“Anytime Quan Lee was on the field he changed the complexion of the defense,” Whittemore added. “His deep threat capability was a constant threat as well as his ability to turn a hitch into a touchdown.”
His quarterback, Creed Whittemore, earned first team honors for the second consecutive season.
Last year, as a sophomore, he completed 62 percent of his passes for 1,675 yards with 23 touchdowns and only four interceptions.
During his junior season, Whittemore completed 58.6 percent for 2,043 yards with 24 touchdowns and six interceptions.
“Creed was able to run our offense this year as an exceptional passer and runner,” said his dad and head coach Mark Whittemore. “For what our offensive coordinator, Matt Dibernardo, designed he was a great fit at the position to get us into successful scenarios. He has led the offense very well for two years now.”
But where he drastically got better was in the run game.
Whittemore rushed for 290 yards and two scores as a sophomore, but in 2021 he ran for 755 yards and nine touchdowns.
“Creed got better and better as the season progressed and became a legitimate run threat,” Coach Whittemore said. “His dual threat dynamic made us better as an offense.”
Teammates Taylor McGriff (Jr., 6-foot-4, 265 pounds), John McDonough (Sr., 6-3, 255), and Aveien Smith (Sr., 6-1, 260), who helped anchor that line of protection, all earned first team selections.
The other first team wideout was Marcus Peterson of Columbia (Lake City). The University of Cincinnati signee hauled in 41 passes for 556 yards and six touchdowns for the Tigers, who made the Class 6A playoffs.
“Great teammate and leader whose catch radius is beyond belief,” said first-year Columbia coach Demetric Jackson. “He’s able to bring in passes that seem to be out of reach for most athletes.”
The All Area backfield of Kyree Edwards and Dalton Hollingsworth led to big years for Gainesville and Keystone Heights, respectively.
Edwards finished with 891 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns as GHS (8-3) won the Class 6A-District 4 title. The junior averaged 6.1 yards per carry.
“Kyree is a leader for our program both on and off the field,” said Hurricanes coach Dock Pollard, who doubled Gainesville’s number of wins from the past two seasons combined. “He worked really hard between 10th and 11th grade, which put him in the position to have a great junior year. We can’t wait to see what next year brings.”
Meanwhile, Hollingsworth rushed for 1,324 yards and 21 touchdowns as the Indians (10-2) won their first playoff game in school history.
“Dalton exemplifies what it means to be a team player,” said Keystone Heights coach Chuck Dickinson. “He played three different positions on offense and was also our starting free safety. He has a high football IQ and was a pleasure to coach.”
Teammate Luke Snider (Keystone Heights, Sr.) joined the first team offensive line, along with Jaycob Jones (Columbia, Sr.).
“Tough as nails and strong as an ox,” Jackson said of Jones. “Jaycob brings that physical presence that is needed in football and loves contact.”
Tray Tolliver, an “all around great athlete,” was named to the first team as an athlete after compiling 1,000 all-purpose yards, returning three punts for scores, and adding a kickoff return for a touchdown in only nine games for the Tigers.
“There is not much Tray can’t do and he is exceptionally good at most things,” Jackson said. “His vision and leg strength is his strongest attribute. He may only stand at 5-10 but plays way bigger than his actual statue.”
The special teams consisted of Gainesville sophomore kicker Cooper Badics and Suwannee (Live Oak) junior punter Braxtyn Green.
Badics made six field goals, including a long of 43 yards. He also drilled a 29-yard field goal with less than 30 seconds to play to give GHS a 17-14 win at St. Augustine to clinch the district title. He connected on 32-of-35 PATs and scored 50 points during the season.
“He isn’t the biggest guy on the team by any means, but he has the heart of a lion, wants to compete and has ice in his veins,” Pollard said. “I am excited to have two more years with him.”
Green made the all area first team after averaging 38.1 yards per punt, including a long of 54. A total of 11 of his punts were inside the 20-yard line.
“Braxtyn works at his craft more than any player I’ve been around,” said Suwannee coach Kyler Hall. “He’s been working on his technique and strength as a kicker since he was 10 years old. He’s a heck of an all-around athlete as he excels in baseball and soccer. Braxtyn is a great example of what it means to be a student athlete and he’s an even better young man.”
A panel of local sportswriters and coaches chose All Area offensive and defensive teams from Mainstreet’s eight-county coverage area. All 48 players and two coaches will receive commemorative plaques to recognize their accomplishments.
2021 Mainstreet Daily News All Area Football Team – big school offense
QB – Creed Whittemore (Buchholz, Jr.)
RB (2) – Kyree Edwards (Gainesville, Jr.), Dalton Hollingsworth (Keystone Heights, Sr.)
WR (2) – Quan Lee (Buchholz, Sr.), Marcus Peterson (Columbia, Sr.)
OL (5) – Luke Snider (Keystone Heights, Sr.), Jaycob Jones (Columbia, Sr.), Taylor McGriff (Buchholz, Jr.), John McDonough (Buchholz, Sr.), Aveien Smith (Buchholz, Sr.)
ATH – Tray Tolliver (Columbia, Jr.)
K – Cooper Badics (Gainesville, So.)
P – Braxtyn Green (Suwannee, Jr.)
Buchholz (Gainesville): Jacarree Kelly (ATH, Jr.), Adrian Sermons (WR, Sr.), Brady Barnes (OL, Jr.), Reed Rousseau (K, Jr.)
Columbia (Lake City): Jace Hoskey (WR, Sr.)
Eastside (Gainesville): Darian Smith-Williams (RB, Jr.), Ira Warren (OL, So.), Dabien White (OL, Jr.)
Gainesville: Shamon “Shooby” Coleman (QB, So.), Brent King (WR, Sr.), Taylor Richardson (OL, Fr.), Ammon Engebretsen (OL, Sr.), Khamari Frazier (TE, Sr.), John Cooper (ATH, Jr.), Ryan Nolan (ATH, Sr.)
Keystone Heights: Logan Williams (RB, Sr.), Tyler Jenkins (RB, Sr.), Caleb Moncrief (OL, Sr.), Mason Dicks (OL, Sr.)
Santa Fe (Alachua): Landon Rogers (QB/P, Sr.), Devan Mitchum (WR, Sr.), Cameron Lewis (OL, So.), Keyon Carter (ATH, Sr.)
Suwannee (Live Oak): Malachi Graham (RB, Sr.), Braxton Thompson (OL, Sr.), Braxtyn Green (K, Jr.).
This is the third in a five-part series on the 2021 Mainstreet Daily News All Area Football Team, sponsored by Pavlik Orthodontics. To read about the small school offense and defense, click here and here.