The Buchholz Bobcats looked up at the scoreboard early in the second quarter of their 3S-Region 1 Semifinal against Ponte Vedra on Friday night and saw a strange sight.
A double-digit deficit.
Buchholz then flipped the switch, as they went on to score 31 unanswered points and eased past Ponte Vedra, 34-21, at Citizens Field.
Top-seed Buchholz (12-0) will host third-seeded Bartram Trail (St. Johns) in a regional final game next Friday. Bartram Trail won at Niceville 28-21 to advance.
The Bobcats won despite having many players out with the flu and a viral infection this week. Buchholz coach Chuck Bell says it was quite an effort from his team.
“What most people don’t know is we had 18 guys out this week with a barrage of the flu, strep throat and viral infections,” Bell said. “This was a skeleton crew tonight but it was one of the grittiest performances I have ever seen and it’s all the kids.”
On the third play of the game, Buchholz sophomore quarterback Trace Johnson threw the ball right to Ponte Vedra senior cornerback Aiden Vancannon. Vancannon raced 35 yards to the end zone to give the Sharks an early 7-0 lead.
But that was Johnson’s only mistake of the night.
Buchholz answered on their next possession with a 23-yard field goal to pull within 7-3.
The Sharks then went 80 yards on their first offensive drive, capped off by a 4-yard touchdown run by junior running back Brian Lane on the first play of the second quarter.
Suddenly Buchholz faced a 14-3 deficit. And then the Bobcats woke up.
After a short Ponte Vedra (8-4) punt, Johnson connected with sophomore wide receiver Justin Williams on a 30-yard wheel route to cut the deficit to 14-10.
After another Sharks punt, Buchholz went right down the field to take the lead. Senior Myles Graham scored on a 30-yard run on fourth and inches for a 17-14 Bobcats lead.
Buchholz then scored on a one-play drive right before halftime as Johnson once again found Williams, this time on a 60-yard bomb down the middle of the field.
Buchholz added 10 more points in the third quarter for a 34-14 edge and played through a penalty-filled second half for the win as Buchholz reached the regional final for the third straight year.
Next up is a rematch with Bartram Trail, who the Bobcats blasted 44-7 on Oct. 19.
“We are still playing football for the past four Thanksgivings,” Bell said. “I’m sure not many teams can say that.”
Friday, Nov. 17
Class 4S-Region 1 Semifinal
No. 1 Buchholz 34, No. 4 Ponte Vedra 21
Class 2S-Region 2 Semifinal
No. 1 Bradford (Starke) 28, No. 4 Eastside 7
Class 1R-Region 3 Semifinal
No. 3 Union County (Lake Butler) 17, No. 2 Fort White 10
Class 1R-Region 4 Semifinal
No. 1 Williston 52, No. 4 Pahokee 17
No. 2 Hawthorne 27, No. 3 Newberry (9-2) 7