Two of the best high school football teams in the Mainstreet Daily News coverage area the past couple of years have easily been Buchholz and Hawthorne.
Hawthorne has made three straight state championship game appearances and they won the Class 1R state title last year.
Buchholz has been to two straight state semifinal appearances and was one score away from advancing to the 4S state title game last year.
Both teams are undefeated heading into Week 4 of the season. They’re also ranked in the top five of the regional all-classification rankings.
The Hornets (3-0) have outscored their three opponents, 112-23. That’s an average margin of victory of almost 30 points per game (37.3-7.6), and the defense has helped play a big part of that.
“I think we have shown flashes of being a dominant defensive team when we do the little things correctly, such as alignment and being gap sound,” said Hawthorne defensive coordinator Dustin Adkins. “We have played with good energy and are holding each other accountable, which always are attributes of a good defense. However, we have yet to put together a complete four-quarter performance, and that is something we talk about and review during the film. Our players have bought into the system and trust the coaching that they are receiving.”
Hawthorne has taken advantage of the transfer portal. Their leading tackler is North Marion (Citra) transfer Andrew Zock. The Navy commit is averaging 12.7 tackles per game.
“Zock has been a very physical presence for us and is someone I can move around and put in different positions in order to impact the game,” Adkins said. “Leland Johnson has been very solid the first three weeks, and Naziy Gent also is stepping up at linebacker in his first year starting for us. Overall, I am very satisfied with our progress so far, but also understand we are nowhere near where we expect to be with the high standards and expectations we place upon ourselves.”
The offense has been in good hands thanks to former North Marion wide receiver Caleb Rollerson, who is second on the team averaging 70.3 yards per game, and The Villages transfer Alvon Isaac, who was recognized as the Pavlik Orthodontics Athlete of the Week following his four-touchdown performance in last week’s 46-6 win against Terry Parker (Jacksonville).
But if the Hornets are to get a win on Friday, they need a big performance from their defense.
Hawthorne will have its hands full against unbeaten South Sumter (Bushnell), which advanced to the 2S-Region 3 Final last year, falling to eventual state champion Cocoa.
The visiting Raiders (3-0) are averaging 45.7 points per game and have several different players who have scored a touchdown this year.
Senior running back Jamare Dorsey (3 TDs) is averaging 116.5 yards per game and 8.6 yard per carry, while junior running back Tyrese Keiler (6 TDs) is averaging 92.3 yards per game (10.3 ypc).
“South Sumter presents a lot of challenges for us,” Adkins said. “They play at a very high pace, run multiple formations, and do a lot of pre and post snap movements in order to get people out of position or to blow an assignment. Mix all that with the fact that they have fast, physical athletes, and South Sumter is a heck of an obstacle Friday. This game is definitely a good test for our defense, and I think we will be ready to meet the challenge.”
The game will be broadcast online (audio only) at Mainstreet Daily News beginning at 7:15 p.m. with Cam Parker (Play-by-play) and Aiden Wacksman (Color) on the call. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, the radio broadcast this week is Creekside (St. Johns) at Buchholz.
It’s the Class 4S-District 3 opener for the Bobcats, who improved to 3-0 last Friday with a dominating 35-0 win against Eastside at Citizens Field.
They earned a level of respect that they weren’t getting prior to the game.
“Quite frankly, some of our guys weren’t happy about some of the things we were hearing from the east side of town,” said first-year Buchholz coach Chuck Bell, who will get a chance to win a city title on Thursday, Oct. 5, when GHS hosts the Bobcats. “I guess you have to earn all of the respect you get but it didn’t seem like they had a lot of respect for what we’ve done over the last four or five years. Our guys had talked about it all week. We wanted to put a running clock on these guys and the mission was accomplished.”
The competition gets tougher this week against a Creekside program that was 9-3 last year. It was their first nine-win season in the school's 15-year football history.
“When I first got hired here I said, ‘man, Creekside’s in our district,’ I’ve known Sean (coach McIntyre) for a while,” Bell said. “I recruited Sean’s school when I was a college coach. Sean is one of the brightest minds I’ve ever been around. I have nothing but respect for him.”
The Knights return four offensive linemen and starting running back Nicholas Williams (1,417 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns as a junior) from last year’s team which averaged 39 points per game.
“They’re a tricky bunch,” Bell said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s fake punts, onside kicks, double moves on offense, they empty the bag on you and they stress you mentally in so many different ways. Man for man we might have a little more speed than them and maybe we have more athletic players, but Sean has been able to figure out a way to manufacture some ways to hurt you offensively. They play good defense and are really good on special teams.”
Buchholz won this game last year, 48-41, but the Bobcats led the game 34-14 at the half.
However, former quarterback Creed Whittemore is now at Mississippi State. Whittemore threw for 269 yards and rushed for 154 yards with a total of five touchdowns in last year’s road win.
Despite the loss of Whittemore, the Bobcats (3-0) are currently averaging 43 points per game, while the defense is allowing just 14.6 ppg.
I’ll handle the play-by-play of the game along with Lance Williams (Color) on 106.9 FM “I am Country” and online at IamCountryRadio.com. Our coverage begins at 7 p.m., followed by the kickoff at 7:30 p.m.
Catch both games ‘live’ and ‘archived’ on Friday night.
Friday, 7 p.m. (PREGAME) - High School Football, 7:30 p.m. (KICKOFF)
Creekside (St. Johns) at Buchholz
Radio: "I am Country" 106.9 FM Gainesville
Join Mike Ridaught (Play-by-play) and Lance Williams (Color) for this Class 4S-District 3 game. Buchholz (3-0) won last year's meeting 48-41 on the road and has won three in a row in the series against the Knights (1-2).
Friday, 7:15 p.m. (PREGAME) - High School Football, 7:30 p.m. (Kickoff)
South Sumter (Bushnell) at Hawthorne
'Live' & 'archived' AUDIO: https://www.mainstreetdailynews.com/sports/live-stream/
Join Cam Parker (Play-by-play) and Aiden Wacksman (Color) for this matchup of 2022 state playoff teams. The visiting Raiders (3-0), who are ranked 7th in Class 2S by MaxPreps, advanced to the Class 2S Regional Final last year and lost to eventual state champion Cocoa. The Hornets, who are ranked No. 2 in Class 1R by MaxPreps, are the defending 1R state champions.