The Buchholz Bobcats ended their best year in nearly three decades with a 12-2 record and a trip to the state semifinals for the first time since 1995.
While the season ended short of the ultimate goal of a Class 7A state championship with a loss at nationally ranked St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale), there are still plenty of accolades to go around for this Buchholz team.
Five Bobcats lead the way for the 2021 Mainstreet Daily News All Area big school defense. That's almost half of the 11-man first team roster and illustrates Buchholz’s regional dominance.
The Bobcats allowed only 146 points in 14 games, an average of just 10 points a contest. They shut out Dunnellon and allowed single-digit points in seven other games of a power-packed schedule. Buchholz faced five playoff teams—including two eventual state champions in St. Thomas Aquinas and Cardinal Gibbons (Fort Lauderdale)—and gave up 28 points in their first three playoff games, rolling past Fleming Island (Orange Park), University (Orange City), and Nease (Ponte Vedra).
Buchholz seniors Jahari Clemons and Colsen Orth anchor the All Area big school defensive line.
Clemons had 41 tackles—16 for loss—and led the Bobcats with nine sacks in 2021.
"Jahari had an absolute break-out year for us at the nose tackle position," Buchholz defensive coordinator Chuck Bell said. "He led our team in tackles for loss and sacks, which is very rare at the nose tackle position. He had played both offensive and defensive lines in the past and this was the first year he could just concentrate on the defensive side.”
Clemons signed last week with Division II Tusculum University.
Orth had to miss a month after being injured in a win against Bolles (Jacksonville) but returned a month later in time to start on the defensive line against St. Thomas Aquinas.
"Colsen allowed us to be very multiple on defense thanks to his experience as a Bobcat and his high football acumen," Bell said. "Last fall, Colsen lined up at defensive end, defensive tackle, outside linebacker, and inside linebacker as well as serving as the team's punter."
The two Buchholz standouts are joined on the defensive line by Columbia senior Bobby Miller and Gainesville senior Brandon Bowden.
Miller was a stalwart on Columbia's defensive line as a senior and helped the Tigers to a 6-5 record and another district title and playoff appearance in 6A. It’s the second straight year he was named to the All Area first team as he racked up 66 tackles with 13 for a loss and a team-high seven sacks for the Tigers. He also recovered two fumbles and forced a fumble.
Bowden played a major part in Gainesville's turnaround from a two-win season in 2020 to an 8-3 record, district title, and trip to the 6A postseason last fall.
Bowden, who signed with Division-III Mount Union last week, led the Hurricanes with 55 tackles, including 14 for loss, six sacks and one fumble recovery.
Buchholz senior Daryus Boyd anchors the linebacker corps.
Boyd, who also leads the Bobcats basketball team in scoring, had 37 tackles, 15 for loss, which was second on the Buchholz defense, as were his seven sacks.
"Daryus has always been an elite basketball player in the area, but he was on a mission to prove he could be just as productive on the gridiron," Bell said. "Prior to last fall Daryus had only played football for one season and never received much coaching, and I have never seen a player improve so much in one year."
Joining Boyd at the linebacker position is Columbia senior Jaden Dunn and Santa Fe junior Ty'rique Robinson.
Dunn racked up an impressive 127 tackles, including nine for loss, along with three sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Despite a winless season, Robinson was a bright spot for the Raiders with 154 tackles, nine for loss, three sacks, an interception, three fumble recoveries and one blocked punt.
Finally, two more Buchholz players highlight the secondary.
Senior Tavares Williams led the Bobcats defense with 57 total tackles and added 10 for loss to go along with two interceptions and one sack. He also scored a defensive touchdown.
"When you ask any coach familiar with Tavares what his best attribute is, they all say the same thing: He will hit you," Bell said.
Williams missed only four tackles all season, and allowed no passing touchdowns in 14 games. He will move on to Troy University as a preferred walk-on.
The final Bobcats representative is senior Omarion Littles. Littles had 31 tackles, four tackles for loss, two interceptions, one fumble recovery, two blocked punts and scored two defensive touchdowns.
"Omarion was a steady force all fall for us at the cornerback position," Bell added. "In addition to the interceptions and pass break-ups, which you expect, he was a bright spot on special teams where he blocked two punts and was a big part of the kickoff team."
Joining the two Buchholz players in the secondary is the second Gainesville High representative, senior Ryan Nolan.
Nolan, who is heading to Army-West Point, had 49 tackles, two interceptions and four passes defensed, while also playing quarterback and wide receiver on the offensive side of the ball. This is also Nolan’s second year as a first team All Area defender.
"I can't say enough about Ryan," Gainesville head coach Dock Pollard said. "This year he threw for, ran for, and had receiving touchdowns and of course started on defense and was on special teams. He played a major role in our return to the playoffs and has a great future ahead of him."
The final member of the secondary is Columbia junior Jaden Robinson, who is the third Tigers representative on the team. Robinson tallied 94 tackles, three interceptions, one sack, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
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 defense
DL (4) – Jahari Clemons (Buchholz, Sr.), Colsen Orth (Buchholz, Sr.), Bobby Miller (Columbia, Sr.), Brandon Bowden (Gainesville, Sr.)
LB (3) – Ty'rique Robinson (Santa Fe, Jr.), Jaden Dunn (Columbia, Sr.), Daryus Boyd (Buchholz, Sr.)
Secondary (4) – Ryan Nolan (Gainesville, Sr.), Jaden Robinson (Columbia, Jr.), Tavares Williams (Buchholz, Sr.), Omarion Littles (Buchholz, Sr.)
Buchholz (Gainesville): Nay'ron Jenkins (LB, Sr.), E.J. Gadsden (LB, Sr.), Gavin Hill (DL, Jr.), Donny Hiebert (FS, Jr.)
Columbia (Lake City): Adeon Farmer (DL, Sr.), Noah Morris (LB, Sr.), Jerome Carter (DB, So.), Amare Ferrell (CB/FS, Jr.)
Gainesville: Ahman Covington (LB, Jr.), D’yoni Hill (CB, Sr.), Kendrick Newton (DB, Sr.)
Keystone Heights: Caleb Moncrief (DL, Sr.), Clayton Kicklighter (LB, Sr.), Logan Williams (LB, Sr.), Dalton Hollingsworth (DB, Sr.)
Suwannee (Live Oak): Andrew Brown (LB, Sr.).
This is the fourth 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. To read about the big school offense, click here.