There is a saying that “when it rains, it pours.”
Entering Thursday night’s city game against undefeated Buchholz at Citizens Field, Gainesville High announced that a freshman quarterback would start for the winless Hurricanes.
Tommy Coyne, who was in for injured starter Mason Zwilling, got introduced to big boy football on the second play of the game as he was blindsided by junior Thomas Weinhardt and coughed up the ball.
Buchholz recovered at the GHS 34-yard line and proceeded to score three plays later, and the rout was on.
The host Bobcats raced out to a 42-0 halftime lead on their way to a 49-0 victory — their fourth straight win in the series.
“It’s always exciting for us, the fans, and the students to get a win against GHS or Eastside,” said Buchholz quarterback Creed Whittemore, who had a 31-yard run on the first play after the turnover and then scored on a 3-yard run. “Props to GHS for coming out and playing hard. You never want to see a city team have a bad year. We grew up with them. We did a good job, put up points, and played great defense.”
Whittemore accounted for four touchdowns, including a 9-yard scoring run with 5:46 to play in the opening quarter for a 14-0 lead.
The UF commit added his third touchdown of the quarter on a 48-yard pass to Jaren Hamilton on a slant to give the Bobcats a commanding 21-0 lead with 1:20 to play in the first quarter.
“That was an RPO (run/pass option),” Whittemore said. “We saw the safety come down. We threw it behind him. A guy that fast is pretty easy to get behind the defense.”
On Gainesville’s next possession, Coyne’s pass was intercepted and corralled with one hand by junior Kendall Jackson, who returned it 20 yards for the score and a 28-0 lead with 11:41 to play in the half.
“It shocked me at first,” said Jackson, who has an offer from UF. “I saw him throw the ball and I was like, ‘I’ve got to grab this, pat it down, or do something,’ and as soon as I put my hand up, I caught it and I was like, ‘I’ve got to go,’ and I started running full speed.”
Gainesville (0-7) had trouble moving the ball against the Buchholz defense, which posted its first shutout of the season.
Buchholz (5-0) added another touchdown on an 11-yard pass from Whittemore to senior running back Quinton Cutler in the back of the end zone to ensure there would be a running clock in the second half.
“A year ago, we were on top of the mountain and for whatever reason, we are where we are,” said Gainesville coach Dock Pollard. “The scoreboard doesn’t define who they are as people and it won’t define who they are going to be as men going forward. What they will have is the experience that when times get tough, they’ll be able to reflect on this and know that when it got tough, they didn’t quit, they kept fighting regardless of the outcome.”
Whittemore came out of the game with 5:23 to play in the half and backup quarterback Collins Dunmore entered the contest.
The sophomore added the final scoring of the half as he ran it in from eight yards out for a 42-0 lead with less than a minute to play in the second quarter.
The Bobcats, who have a key 4S-District 3 home game next Friday against Oakleaf (Orange Park), were able to empty their bench in the second half.
Freshman quarterback Trace Johnson completed the scoring with a 12-yard touchdown pass to freshman Justin Williams with just over five minutes to play in the game.
Gainesville will seek its first win next Thursday at home against 3S-District 4 foe Matanzas (Palm Coast).
It’s unclear who will get the start under center, but Pollard was pleased overall with his young QB.
“He got an opportunity to have his first start against that beast,” he said. “We showed some good things. Our pass protection wasn’t necessarily horrible. He made young mistakes throwing the ball late over the middle but that is expected when you have never started in a game of this magnitude. I tip my cap. He wasn’t afraid.”