All three phases of the game were on display for the Buchholz football team on Friday night at Citizens Field.
And it only took 19 seconds for the Bobcats to score the game-winner.
Senior Jaren Hamilton returned the opening kick 89 yards for a score to give the host Bobcats a lead they would not relinquish in a 45-6 win against Riverview (Sarasota).
“The kickoff was huge,” said Buchholz coach Mark Whittemore. “Obviously he’s got a lot of speed and that’s always a good thing on the football field.”
Despite the early momentum, the visiting Rams (0-2) were able to get back in the game. Following a Buchholz fumble, the Rams began a short drive at the Bobcats’ 30.
Riverview, which made the Class 8A state playoffs last year, scored on a 3-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jeremiah Dawson to junior Charles Lester III with 5:29 to play in the opening quarter. However, the extra point was blocked and Buchholz led 7-6.
That’s the closest the Bobcats would come to trailing in the game, and they almost pitched a shutout.
“Defense, obviously, is phenomenal,” Whittemore said. “They played their butts off. We gave them a short field when they actually scored.”
Buchholz’s next drive stalled, but senior Reed Rousseau drilled a 33-yard field goal with 2:27 to play in the first quarter for a 10-6 lead.
“It was a little sloppy offensively, but we’ve got a lot of octane, a lot of playmakers, so we were able to work our way through,” Whittemore said. “The first series was kind of discombobulated, but we got ourselves on the right track.”
On Buchholz’s next possession, senior quarterback Creed Whittemore threw the first of four touchdown passes, a 28-yard scoring toss to Hamilton for a 16-6 lead with 10:40 to play in the half.
Whittemore completed the scoring in the opening half with a 13-yard touchdown pass to James Williams.
On the ensuing extra point, the Bobcats ran a trick play, lining players up on the right side but the Rams didn’t account for Rousseau on the left side, who caught the 2-point conversion pass for a 24-6 lead at the half.
After Riverview failed to score on the first possession of the second half, the Bobcats struck again.
Senior wide receiver Jacarree Kelly hauled in a 10-yard touchdown pass from Whittemore for a 31-6 lead with 7:13 to play in the third quarter.
Then, late in the quarter, the Bobcats put the nail in the coffin.
Junior Thomas Weinhardt blocked a Riverview punt inside the 10-yard line and recovered the ball in the end zone for a 38-6 lead with 20 seconds to play in the quarter.
“We were in punt safe and my job on that is just to rush off the edge, so I went hard and when I laid out I felt it hit my chest and then it was just go get the ball and score,” he said.
Creed Whittemore completed the scoring with a 41-yard touchdown pass to Hamilton with 10:47 remaining to impose a running clock.
“They had a 5-star DB/WR (Charles Lester III) who was a lot of trouble and we were able to handle that and scheme around it,” Mark Whittemore said. “I really enjoyed watching these guys compete in all three phases.”
Lester, who is the No. 8 junior in Florida according to 247Sports, has offers from Alabama, Georgia, Michigan and Ohio State.
Buchholz will face rival Eastside next Friday night at 7 p.m. at Citizen’s Field. The game will be broadcast on 106.9 FM “I am Country” beginning at 6:30 p.m.
“They’re 2-0, there’s going to be a lot of expectation on both sides so we’re going to need to make sure we take care of business,” Whittemore said.
The Bobcats have outscored two playoff opponents, 76-20, in their first two games.
“Any time you leave 45-6, you can’t be poor mouthing your team so we’re where we want to be,” Mark Whittemore said.