St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale) controlled the action to earn a 45-7 win against Gainesville Buchholz in a Class 7A state semifinal matchup.
The Raiders' offense took charge to a 42-7 lead over the Bobcats at halftime.
"They're a very good ballclub, as everyone knows," said Buchholz coach Mark Whittemore of two-time defending state 7A champ St. Thomas Aquinas . "We started with several stops on defense in the front end of the game."
It was the Bobcats' offense that had trouble moving against the Raiders.
"I don't know if we had a first down the whole first half," Wittemore said. "We couldn't move the football, and therin lies the tale of the game."
And the Buchholz defense effectively executed 95 percent of the time, but "the other 5 percent of the time, [St. Thomas Aquinas] had big plays," Whittemore said.
Fort Lauderdale's St. Thomas Aquinas (13-1) took a 14-0 lead after the first quarter and went up 42-7 at the half.
"This type of game shows Buchholz still has a run in the ladder to climb," Whittmore said of the Raiders, who leads Florida football with 12 state titles. "St. Thomas set the bar where they are at."
Buchholz (12-2) scored on a Jacarree Kelly kickoff return before the half, breaking tackles at the 15- and 10-yard lines, Whittemore said.
Even though the score didn't go in Buchholz's favor, Whittemore noted the amount of fans who traveled six hours to support the team.
"We had a tremendous showing from our community," he said. "The stands were packed."
Buchholz (Gainesville) advanced to the final four after the Bobcats beat Nease (Ponte Vedra), 37-14, last Friday in the 7A-Region 1 title game and regional playoff wins of 35-7 over Fleming Island on Nov. 11 and 39-7 against University (Orange City) on Nov. 19.
"We are a final four team and our kids are regional champs, so I don't want to minimize their efforts to play a really high level of football," Whittemore said. "The future looks super brigh, the coaching staff is tremendous, and the we receive great support from our administration to assemble what we have here."
It marks the first time Buchholz has advanced to the final four since 1995 when they were led by eventual UF quarterback Doug Johnson. The Bobcats won a state title in 1990.
Last year, Buchholz went 9-2 and advanced to the regional semifinals. In 2019, the Bobcats finished 5-5.
Whittmore credits the leadership of his outgoing seniors, led by defensive lineman Colsen Orth, team captain and wide receiver Adrian Sermons, and multi-purpose athlete Quan Lee, who set the Alachua County receving yards record this season and led the team in all-purpose yardage in receiving, rushing and punt returns.
"Buchholz athletics are really tremendous," Whittemore said, pointing to the successful wrestling, basketball, baseball and cross country teams. "This is the 50th year of Bobcats athletics and we've got 29 state championships, so every other year one of our teams is winning a title."
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