Last Friday, the Buchholz football team was denied the Class 4S-District 3 title with a 21-6 loss at Bartram Trail (St. Johns).
But on Thursday night at Citizens Field, the Bobcats bounced back from their only loss of the season with a 49-35 Class 4S-District 3 win against visiting Fleming Island (Orange Park) on Senior Night.
“I’m really proud of the seniors,” said Buchholz coach Mark Whittemore. “Wins are tough to come by. We’re very thankful. No one’s over there pouting right now, but in the back of our mind we’re aware that we just gave up 35 points and we probably shouldn’t have.”
The seniors made their presence felt early.
Buchholz received the opening kick and began its first drive on its 34-yard line.
Senior quarterback Creed Whittemore completed a 13-yard pass to senior Jaren Hamilton on the first offensive play of the game.
Two plays later, Whittemore completed a 39-yard touchdown pass to Hamilton down the left sideline for the game’s first score. Senior kicker Reed Rousseau gave Buchholz a 7-0 lead less than a minute into the game.
It took the Bobcats (7-1, 3-1) just three plays to march 66 yards.
Fleming Island began its first drive at its 20-yard line and consumed almost five minutes off the clock.
However, on a 2nd-and-9 at the Buchholz 23-yard line, Buchholz senior Camron Boykin deflected a pass in the end zone to prevent a potential game-tying score.
“Cam had two or three really big defenses,” Whittemore said. “He’s come along. He’s long. He’s 6-foot. He’s impressive out there on the edge and I really like how his maturation is occurring there at the corner spot. We’re going to need him moving forward.”
After a turnover on downs, Buchholz struck again on a 6-yard scoring pass from Whittemore to senior Jacarree Kelly. The Bobcats led Fleming Island, 14-0, with 2:29 to play in the opening quarter.
The Golden Eagles (4-4, 0-4) consumed the ball for five minutes on their second possession, moving the ball into Bobcats’ territory on a 29-yard run by quarterback Cibastian Broughton, who finished with 196 yards on the ground.
Once again, the drive stalled on an incomplete pass on 4th-and-16 at the Buchholz 27-yard line.
The Bobcats moved down the field again and, on a 3rd-and-five at the Fleming Island 30-yard line, Whittemore ran around right end or a 30-yard touchdown run with 7:44 to play in the half.
However, the play was called back due to offensive holding and the Bobcats turned it over on downs just two plays later.
That kept the door open for Fleming Island and FSU commit Sam Singleton, who made sure the Golden Eagles (4-4, 0-4) would get back in the game.
On the first play of Fleming Island’s next possession, the senior running back scampered 29 yards and had just one man to beat. However, Buchholz senior Donny Hiebert made a touchdown saving tackle.
Four plays later, Broughton had a 28-yard touchdown run on a read option and the Golden Eagles cut the deficit to 14-7 with 4:12 to play in the second quarter.
Buchholz answered quickly.
A 49-yard run by junior Quinton Cutler put the ball on the Fleming Island 16-yard line. On the next play, junior Jordan Richardson scored on a 16-yard run, capping a 3-play, 70-yard drive, for a 21-7 lead.
But the Golden Eagles struck again, scoring on a 1-yard touchdown run by Singleton with 22 seconds left in the half.
Singleton had 121 yards on 16 carries in the opening half.
Fleming Island got the ball to start the second half at their own 32-yard line and they moved to the Buchholz red zone. But another big play by Boykin, who deflected a pass in the end zone on a 4th-and-5 at the 20-yard line to end the drive.
The Bobcats scored again on just five plays.
Whittemore, who accounted for six touchdowns in the game, threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to Hamilton for a 28-14 lead with 7:32 to play in the third quarter.
“I think coming off an emotional and frustrating loss to a really good team, it’s hard being able to bounce back from that,” said Mississippi State commit Creed Whittemore. “We came out and played hard. I think our offensive line played their best game of the season.”
Whittemore had 12 carries for 119 yards and a touchdown, while Cutler added 107 yards on 12 carries.
It was also a big night through the air for Whittemore, who completed 16-of-20 for 315 yards with five touchdowns.
The lead grew to 35-14 with 3:37 to play in the third quarter on a 25-yard touchdown pass to Kelly.
Fleming Island added a 2-yard touchdown by Singleton to close the gap, 35-21, with 30 seconds to play in the quarter.
Buchholz went 3-and-out for the first time, but on the ensuing punt the Golden Eagles’ Kaylib Singleton fumbled and junior Matthew Kade recovered at the Fleming Island 26-yard line.
Following a penalty, Whittemore raced to the end zone on a 31-yard touchdown run for a three-touchdown lead with 10:08 to play.
The lead was safe, but the Golden Eagles added two more touchdowns to make things interesting.
“We don’t want to outscore people,” said Buchholz coach Mark Whittemore. “That’s not how we’re built. But that’s what happened tonight.”
Buchholz will head to Jacksonville next Friday for the season finale at Class 2M No. 8 Bolles. The Bobcats edged the Bulldogs, 14-7, in last year’s meeting.