Buchholz pulls out last-minute win

Buchholz's Creed Whittemore with a run against Pace on Friday.
Buchholz's Creed Whittemore scored five touchdowns against Pace on Friday. (Photo by Taryn Ashby)

The Bucholz Bobcats defeated the Pace Patriots, 35-34, Friday night behind a late 95-yard touchdown drive and clutch defense in a 4S Region 1 Quarterfinal game at Newberry High School. 

Buchholz quarterback and Mississippi State commit Creed Whittemore threw for four touchdowns and added another on the ground, giving him Sonic Drive-In Player of the Game honors and a memorable win.  

Starting on their own 5-yard line with two minutes to go, a 30-yard run, a 20-yard pass to James Williams, a first-down throw to Jacarree Kelly and a 17-yard pass to R.J. Livingston put the ball in the red zone with less than a minute left. Whittemore then found Jordan Richardson from 15 yards out to cap off the five-play drive in a minute and 17 seconds.

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“I just feel really, really proud of these guys the way they responded with a 95-yard drive. I mean, c’mon,” Buchholz coach Mark Whittemore said. “It’s rare. No. 2 [Creed Whittemore] played pretty well tonight.”

Rather than go for the PAT to tie, the father took a chance on the son with a two-point conversion try, and it paid off. Whittemore spun and scrambled to the left, outrunning the defender and crossing the goal line for the conversion and the 35-34 lead with 47 seconds left.

Buchholz's Jaren Hamilton scored two touchdowns on Friday against Pace.
Photo by Taryn Ashby Buchholz’s Jaren Hamilton scored two touchdowns on Friday against Pace.

Mark said that the play’s outcome was completely different from the design.

“It was completely different from what you saw,” he said. “[Pace] covered it up, and he had to improvise. He did and it worked out.”

A Jaren Hamilton interception sealed the victory on the next drive for Buchholz.

In the first quarter, it only took five plays for the Bobcats to find the end zone to start the offensive shootout.

Whittemore hit 4-star receiver Hamilton for a 49-yard strike to open the game’s scoring with 9:35 left in the first quarter—the pair’s 10th touchdown this season.

“Can’t say enough about [Hamilton],” Mark said. “He’s a fantastic athlete, and he’s got jets. The guy can really go.”

Quarterback Whittemore agreed.

“He’s a big-time playmaker,” he said. “He draws defenders. He catches big balls. You can use him as a decoy. I think that helps us a lot.”

Whittemore would quickly find the end zone again on the following drive with a 40-yard rush to make it a two-touchdown lead with 5:35 left in the first period of play.

However, Pace found its rhythm in the second quarter, outscoring the Bobcats 21-14 behind two touchdown rushes and a touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Nick Simmons.

After Whittemore hit Hamilton for their second touchdown to make it 20-7, Simmons would score from five yards out, and Buchholz fumbled on its next possession. Simmons and the Patriots took advantage of the takeaway with a touchdown pass Xakery Wiedner from 34 yards out, giving Pace their first lead, 21-20, with 4:25 left in the half.

Despite the momentum shift, the Bobcats clawed right back with big runs from Quinton Cutler and Whittemore, leading to a 15-yard score from Whittemore to Kelly to give the Bobcats a 27-21 lead going into the break.

After the Patriots tied the game in the third quarter, a 65-yard run by Wiedner led to what seemed like the game-winning touchdown. With 6:28 left, Simmons scored his third rushing touchdown and fifth overall in the game.

Buchholz's Donny Hiebert with a tackle against Pace on Friday.
Photo by Taryn Ashby Buchholz’s Donny Hiebert with a tackle against Pace on Friday.

Down 34-27 and time running out, the Bobcats offense continued its early drive momentum after first down runs from Cutler and Whittemore inside the Pace 30-yard line. The drive would stall with a penalty, a completion to Kelly short of the first down and three straight incompletions to turn the ball over on downs with a little over four minutes left.

“We weren’t as efficient as I would like to be on offense,” Mark said. “We really need to try to clean that up. This week will be dedicated to that.”

The Bobcats’ defense made one more big stop behind an open-field tackle from Donny Hiebert on third down to force a punt.

A deep punt coupled with a block in the back penalty put the ball on the Bobcats’ 5-yard line to begin their potential game-winning drive. From there, Whittemore led Buchholz on its five-play, 95-yard touchdown drive.

Pace would get a first down to start its final drive, but on third down with 8.8 seconds left, Simmons scrambled and launched the ball across the middle, where Hamilton was standing for the interception to end the game.

Buchholz will host No. 7 Crestview, which upset No. 2 Niceville, 26-21, on Nov. 18 in the 4S Region 1 Semifinal.

“Being able to play one more with the senior class, with my guys is something you can’t take for granted,” Whittemore said. “We’re excited to play out there on Friday.”

Friday results

FHSAA Regional Quarterfinals

Class 1R-Region 3

No. 4 Madison County 36, No. 5 Fort White 0

No. 3 Lafayette (Mayo) 35, No. 6 Branford 7

Class 1R-Region 4

No. 3 Chiefland 49, No. 6 Newberry 7

Class 2S-Region 1

No. 2 Suwannee (Live Oak) 39, No. 7 Walton (DeFuniak Springs) 0

Class 2S-Region 2

No. 1 Bradford (Starke) 48, No. 8 Crescent City 0

No. 5 Eastside 27, No. 4 North Marion (Citra) 14

Class 3S-Region 1

No. 3 Columbia (Lake City) 29, No. 6 Lincoln (Tallahassee) 6

Class 4S-Region 1

No. 3 Buchholz 35, No. 6 Pace 34

Saturday, Nov. 12

Class 1R-Region 4
No. 5 Wildwood (7-2) at No. 4 Williston (10-0), 7 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 18

Regional Semifinals

Class 1R-Region 3

No. 4 Madison County at No. 1 Union County (Lake Butler)

Class 1R-Region 4

No. 3 Chiefland at No. 2 Pahokee

No. 4 Williston/No. 5 Wildwood winner (Saturday) at No. 1 Hawthorne

Class 1S-Region 2

No. 3 P.K. Yonge at No. 2 Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy (Melbourne)

Class 2S-Region 1

No. 3 West Florida at No. 2 Suwannee (Live Oak)

Class 2S-Region 2

No. 5 Eastside at No. 1 Bradford (Starke)

Class 3S-Region 1

No. 3 Columbia (Lake City) at No. 2 Escambia (Pensacola)

Class 4S-Region 1

No. 7 Crestview at No. 3 Buchholz

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