Offenses flashed on Friday night at Citizens Field as Buchholz remained undefeated with a 45-31 win over 4S District 3 rival Oakleaf (Orange Park).
The win also gave the Bobcats (6-0) their second win in district play.
Buchholz quarterback Creed Whittemore, a 2023 4-star Florida commit, threw for five touchdown passes and added another on the ground to lead the Bobcats to the victory.
“I think I can’t do it without my guys up front,” Whittemore said after the game. “They start and end plays. They open up big holes and they give me time to throw it to our fast guys.”
Whittemore was named the Sonic Drive-In Player of the Game for his performance.
After punting on their opening drive, Whittemore led the Bobcat offense on a five-play, 70-yard drive that ended in a 39-yard touchdown pass to Jaren Hamilton. Hamilton, who holds an offer from Alabama, scored two touchdowns during the game, putting his total at nine on the season.
The Knights began their scoring run on the following drive, creating a trend of answering touchdowns that would last until the fourth quarter. With 4:30 to go in the first quarter, Oakleaf running back Devin Outlaw took the handoff and burst up the field for a 47-yard touchdown.
However, it only took two plays for Buchholz to answer. After hitting Hamilton on a 16-yard pass to open the drive, Whittemore threw a screen pass to Quinton Cutler on the left side, who ran 54 yards for the touchdown to put the score at 14-7 with 3:26 to go in the first quarter.
“(Cutler’s) multi-faceted,” Buchholz coach Mark Whittemore said. “He’s a utility guy. He’s nails, he really is.”
The lead wouldn’t last long. As the saying goes, “Second verse, same as the first,” and Oakleaf once again answered Buchholz’s touchdown with another one of their own.
On an 80-yard drive that included a 23-yard pass from Drew Ammon to Taylor Bradshaw, Ammon then connect with Bradshaw for a 22-yard touchdown pass on the first quarter’s final play.
The defenses showed up in the second quarter as both teams only allowed field goals, but Whittemore’s big-play magic returned in the third quarter.
On a designed pass, Whittemore took off for a 23-yard run to put the Bobcats in Oakleaf territory. Three plays later, he launched the ball to Delaware commit Jacarree Kelly, who made a diving catch in the back of the endzone to put Buchholz back in the lead.
“That was all Creed and Jacarree,” Coach Whittemore said. “They’ve got a great relationship. They’ve hooked up on things like that before. Kelly knows what to do when Creed escapes the pocket.”
Creed echoed his father’s statement.
“I think we have a connection unlike anyone else in the state,” he said. “I’ve known Jacarree since we were younger, and I know where he’s going, and it’s easy. We’re on the same page.”
However, Oakleaf remained as the thorn in Buchholz’s side and answered with another touchdown of their own.
A 32-yard Outlaw run plus a facemask penalty put the ball on the 3-yard line, the running back found the endzone for the second time and tie the contest 24-all with 2:51 left in the third quarter.
Buchholz’s following drive ended like the previous one. Whittemore hit Hamilton for a 29-yard pass to put the ball in Knight territory and on the very next play, Cutler took a screen pass 20 yards for his second touchdown reception.
It only took two plays for Oakleaf to start knocking on the door. Ammon hit Bradshaw on a 42-yard pass in the middle of the field with 12 seconds left in the quarter. On the very first play of the fourth quarter, Ammon threw for his second touchdown, this time a 22-yard strike to a wide-open Isaiah Shevchook.
Tied at 31, momentum began to shift in favor of the Bobcats for the final time. Hamilton returned the ensuing kickoff to the Oakleaf 48-yard line. Six plays later, Whittemore hit Hamilton for a 32-yard touchdown pass with 8:56 left in the game.
With 6:26 left, Oakleaf faced a 4th-and-10 on the 50-yard line. With pressure backside from 2023 Florida commit Gavin Hill and Kendall Jackson, who holds an offer from Florida, Ammon rolled to the right and threw it, but his pass was knocked down by Nick Clayton.
Behind a 10-play, 50-yard drive that took nearly six minutes, Whittemore found the end zone with a 1-yard score, icing the game for Buchholz.
Next week, Buchholz will play for what presumably will be the 4S District 3 title against undefeated Bartram Trail, who beat Creekside 59-27 on Friday night. Buchholz won last season’s matchup, 28-13.
“Obviously, Bartram is the highest-ranked team in our class, so it’s going to be a tough out,” Coach Whittemore said.
Matanzas (Palm Coast) 22, Gainesville 14
Buchholz 45, Oakleaf (Orange Park) 31
Hawthorne 28, Union County 21
Bradford (Starke) 36, Tocoi Creek (St. Augustine) 7
Newberry 14, Eastside 7
Suwannee (Live Oak) 36, Madison County 7
Columbia (Lake City) 28, Middleburg 14
Williston 56, Trenton 0
Oak Hall School 44, Cedar Creek Christian (Jacksonville) 16
P.K. Yonge 44, St. Joseph Academy (St. Augustine) 14
Fort White 21, Dixie County (Cross City) 13
Interlachen 26, Bell 19
Melbourne Central Catholic 14, St. Francis Catholic Academy 13
Central (Brooksville) 28, Branford 27
Palatka 48, Keystone Heights 30
Zarephath Academy (Jacksonville) at Chiefland -- canceled
OFF – Bronson, Santa Fe (Alachua)