Five Alachua County teams in state playoffs

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It was a strange year for high school football with all of the weather issues early.

We had games this fall on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and we begin the playoffs with another storm affecting games in the area.

The Buchholz ‘home’ game against Pace in a Class 4S-Region 1 Quarterfinal has been moved from Citizens Field on Thursday night to Newberry High School on Friday night.

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It was quite the year, otherwise.

A total of 13 teams in Mainstreet’s coverage area made the postseason, including five Alachua County teams (Buchholz, Eastside, Hawthorne, Newberry, and P.K. Yonge)

The team with the best record in our area, Willison, only won one game last year and went undefeated, including a 57-28 win at state-ranked Chiefland last Friday night.

Coach of the Year candidate Harold ‘Gator’ Hoskins led Eastside to its first district title in 10 years. They also beat rival GHS for the first time since 2008.

The Rams (7-2), who won just two games last year, earned the No. 5 seed in Class 2S-Region 2 and will host district foe North Marion (Citra) on Friday night at Citizens Field.

The game will be broadcast on 106.9 FM “I am Country” beginning at 7 p.m. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.

Eastside quarterback Holden Johnson (14) and running back Chris Bishop (22) will take on North Marion at Citizens Field on Friday.
Photo by Megan V. Winslow Eastside quarterback Holden Johnson (14) and running back Chris Bishop (22) will take on North Marion at Citizens Field on Friday.

The No. 4 seed Colts (7-3), who are ranked 11th in Class 2S, have lost three games by a total of 24 points, including a 14-6 loss to Eastside on Oct. 3.

North Marion, one of four Marion County schools in the playoffs along with Trinity Catholic (Ocala), Dunnellon and Vanguard (Ocala), also lost by three to 2S No. 8 Suwannee (Live Oak) and at Class 1R No. 2 Hawthorne, 13-0, on Oct. 22.

Eastside will have to establish the running game early and get help in the passing from senior quarterback Holden Johnson (1,448 yards, 14 touchdowns, 3 interceptions) and junior wide receivers Antonio Hubbert and Antoneo Wilson (combined 1,000 yards receiving and 9 TDs) to advance.

The Rams’ defense could play a big role too as Eastside has only given up 100 points in nine games (11.1 points per game). Since a 28-0 loss to Bradford, the Rams have only given up 51 points in their last six games (8.5 ppg).

When the season began, the two teams that had the best chance to make a state playoff run were Hawthorne and Buchholz.

Top seed Hawthorne received a bye in Class 1R-Region 4. The Hornets (8-0), who have been in back-to-back state championship games, will play the winner of No. 5 Wildwood at No. 4 Williston.

The host Red Devils (10-0), who went undefeated in coach Robby Pruitt’s first season, are ranked fifth in Class 1R by MaxPreps, while the visiting Wildcats (7-2) are ranked seventh.

Williston running back Kyree Edwards has rushed for 1,413 yards and 29 TDs this season.
Photo by C.J. Gish Williston running back Kyree Edwards has rushed for 1,413 yards and 29 TDs this season.

Not taking anything away from Williston’s defense, which has allowed just 81 points in 10 games (8.1 ppg), but Wildwood has scored 171 points in its last three games (57 ppg).

However, Williston counters with an explosive offense led by running back Kyree Edwards (1,413 yards rushing, 29 TDs). Edwards scored four touchdowns and rushed for 253 yards on 19 carries in the win against the Indians.

The Wildwood at Williston game time was moved to Saturday at 7 p.m.

The No. 3 seed Chiefland football team will host No. 6 seed Newberry in this Friday night’s 1R-Region 4 quarterfinal at Chiefland.

The visiting Panthers are 6-3 and coming off a 61-21 loss at unbeaten South Sumter (Bushnell), which made the Class 2S state playoffs.

Newberry played a tough schedule that included wins against playoff teams Fort White, Eastside, and P.K. Yonge of Gainesville, along with its other losses to playoff teams Union County and Williston.

“Newberry has proven to be a really good football team,” said Chiefland coach James Corbin. “Their only three losses come to great programs in Union County, Williston, and South Sumter. They’re going to throw the ball around and try and stretch the field vertically.”

Freshman Kiel McGriff has thrown for 1,858 yards in nine games for an average of 206.4 yards per game (ypg), with 18 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

In the backfield, freshman running back Kaleb Woods has 818 yards in eight games and averages 7.8 yards per carry (ypc) and 102.3 yards per game rushing with a team-leading eight touchdowns on the ground.

Senior Michael Moore and junior David Schmidt have combined for 83 catches, 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns.

“The key for us will be getting pressure on the quarterback and force the quick throws where we can rally to the football,” Corbin said. “They are young, but the talent they have is exceptional. We’re really going to count on the veteran leadership on this roster to step up on Friday and take control of the ball game.”

Newberry wide receivers David Schmidt (6) and Michael Moore (4) have combined for 83 catches, 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns this season.
Photo by C.J. Gish Newberry wide receivers David Schmidt (6) and Michael Moore (4) have combined for 83 catches, 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns this season.

Chiefland (6-2) averages 213.5 ypg on the ground, led by junior running back Dakota Fisher with 1,026 yards (9.3 ypc) and 10 touchdowns.

Defensively, the Indians have given up 14 points or less five teams this season.

“Chiefland is a well-coached, experienced and physical team that has great expectations this season,” said Newberry football coach Ed Johnson. “It will take 48 minutes of physical and disciplined football to go there and leave with a win.”

The winner of Friday’s game will travel to No. 2 seed Pahokee next Friday night for a regional semifinal.

“We know that we will have to be disciplined in order to put this team away,” Corbin said. “Newberry will fight until the last minute, whether they are up by 10 or down by 20, so we know we have to stay locked in no matter what happens the previous play.

Pahokee is currently ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 1R, while Hawthorne is ranked second.

“Region Four is loaded and there certainly is no easy path through the playoffs over here,” Corbin said. “I think as a whole, we’re going to see some really good football on Friday, both in Chiefland and around the state.”

Buchholz (7-2) lost at perennial state power Bolles (Jacksonville), 49-28, last Friday.

The host Bulldogs had a lot of incentive after falling to Bishop Kenny (Jacksonville) for the first time since 1977.

“Bolles was definitely a motivated bunch on Friday night,” said Buchholz defensive coordinator Chuck Bell. “Really proud of the overall effort from our kids but Bolles’ kids brought a ‘big game’ mentality to the matchup and outplayed us in all phases.”

Sophomore Ty Neal had 229 yards and three touchdowns, but Bell said if you eliminate two big runs in the second half (116 yards on 2 runs) he finished with 26 carries for 93 yards.

Bell noted that the stat that isn’t really reflected in the box score is the fact that Bolles started six drives on their side of the 50-yard line largely due to kicker miscues.

“It’s hard to stop good teams on short fields,” he said.

Those will be key factors in their first-round game in Class 4S against Pace (7-3), which is averaging 231.5 ypg rushing.

Buchholz quarterback Creed Whittemore and the Bobcats will host Pace at Newberry High School on Friday.
Photo by C.J. Gish Buchholz quarterback Creed Whittemore and the Bobcats will host Pace at Newberry High School on Friday.

“Pace is really talented on both the offensive and defensive Lines,” Bell said. “They run a version of the Wing-T on offense which we don’t see very often, but similar to us.”

Sophomore quarterback Nick Simmons, like Buchholz QB Creed Whittemore, is the team’s leading rusher.”

Whittemore, who has thrown for 1,509 yards with 18 touchdowns and only five interceptions, leads the Bobcats with 600 yards rushing (7.23 ypc).

Division-I wide receivers Jaren Hamilton (Alabama offer) and Jacarree Kelly (Delaware commit) have combined for 71 catches for 1,153 yards and 16 touchdowns.

“On offense, we’ve done a great job keeping Creed protected so far this season, but the Pace defensive line will challenge us more than any team we’ve played this fall,” Bell said. “In order to be victorious on Friday night, we need to win the battle of field position and play with intense passion.”

Head coach Mark Whittemore believes his son, Creed, has set the Alachua County touchdown record with 73 passing and 21 rushing scores.

Coach Whittemore said there are other keys to a Bobcat victory on Friday.

“We need to play excellent defense,” he said. “The Pace offense is a force to be reckoned with. Offensively we need to possess the football and win time of possession.”

The Pace-Buchholz game will be broadcast on Mainstreet Daily News beginning at 7:15 p.m.

The other Alachua County school to make the postseason is P.K. Yonge, which earned the No. 3 seed in Class 1S. The Blue Wave (3-7) will travel to Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy (Melbourne) next Friday night.

FHSAA Football – Regional Quarterfinals

All games at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 11 (start time subject to change)

Class 1R-Region 3

No. 5 Fort White (6-4) at No. 4 Madison County (3-6)

No. 6 Branford (7-3) at No. 3 Lafayette (Mayo) (8-2)

Bye – No. 1 Union County (Lake Butler) (6-2)

Class 1R-Region 4

No. 6 Newberry (6-3) at No. 3 Chiefland (6-2)

Bye – No. 1 Hawthorne (8-0)

Class 2S-Region 1

No. 7 Walton (Defuniak Springs) (7-3) at No. 2 Suwannee (Live Oak) (8-2)

Class 2S-Region 2

No. 8 Crescent City (4-6) at No. 1 Bradford (Starke) (9-1)

No. 4 North Marion (Citra) (7-3) at No. 5 Eastside (7-2) – Game will be broadcast on 106.9 FM “I am Country” beginning at 7 p.m.

Class 3S-Region 1

No. 6 Lincoln (Tallahassee) (5-5) at No. 3 Columbia (Lake City) (6-3)

Class 4S-Region 1

No. 6 Pace (7-3) at No. 3 Buchholz (7-2) – at Newberry High School (Audio of the game will be broadcast online at MainStreetDailyNews.com)

Saturday, Nov. 12

Class 1R-Region 4

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

Friday, Nov. 18

Class 1S-Region 2 Semifinal

No. 3 P.K. Yonge (3-7) at Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy (Melbourne) (6-4)

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