Gainesville’s upset bid comes up short as Buchholz retains city bragging rights

By Declan Walsh
Twitter – @dawalsh_UF

As he brought his team together after the game, coach Mark Whittlemore had three words for his Buchholz team after their 18-13 victory – “We’re city champs.”

The importance of this statement was visible to anyone who attended Friday’s clash, as the electric atmosphere demonstrated that there is no love lost between these two schools.

“I just love it,” Buchholz running back Quan Smith said speaking about the environment. “I love the energy and the juice they provided during the game.”

The impressive ambience, however, likely contributed to the jittery starts from both ball clubs. Three snaps sailed over the head of Buchholz quarterback Jack Hevesy and penalty yards began to rack up for Gainesville as both sides struggled to establish momentum on offense.

Ultimately, Gainesville (0-6), were able to draw first blood as Rod Williams capped off a nice drive by finding Alex Brown in the end zone for a 19-yard score.

Williams had a very good game on the night, throwing and rushing for a score while racking up around 200 yards passing.

More of the same followed in the second quarter as the highly regarded Buchholz offensive line had trouble with the Gainesville defensive front and star back Quan Smith was held largely in check in the first half. This stout defensive play coupled with excellent punting work from Alex Hood saw the Hurricanes take a surprise 7-0 lead into the locker room.

Smith, the Sonic Drive-In Player of the Game, spoke to how Coach Whittlemore “fired us up” during halftime, and Smith came to life in the second half leading his side to victory with three rushing scores.

The first of these came towards the end of the third quarter, as a penalty fueled drive allowed Smith to punch the ball in from 13 yards out, cutting the deficit to one after the missed PAT.

Penalty yardage plagued both sides, with Gainesville committing 18 infractions for 172 (!!) yards, many of which came in the form of unsportsmanlike conduct fouls. Buchholz (4-2) racked up a still substantial 70 penalty yards on 7 fouls.

The Bobcats wasted no time getting back on the scoreboard, picking off Gainesville on the first play of the subsequent drive and manufacturing a short drive that culminated in a one yard touchdown rush for Quan Smith. The failed two point conversion left the score at 12-7 and saw Buchholz claim their first lead of the night two minutes into the fourth quarter.

A 52 yard kickoff return, however, laid the groundwork for an immediate Gainesville response. Rod Williams capitalized on the good field position by calling his own number and rushing the ball into the endzone, giving the Hurricanes a 13-12 lead halfway through the fourth quarter.

Jack Hevesy, who was solid in limited attempts for Buchholz, navigated his team out of dire straits on the following drive via a huge 30 yard completion down the sideline on 3rd and 13. This set up Smith’s third score on a 27 yard run, giving his squad an 18-13 lead with just over two minutes to play.

A sack on first down dashed the hopes of a Gainesville two-minute drill, and a turnover on downs sealed the game for the Bobcats.

For Gainesville, they likely will feel they missed an opportunity to score a victory over a rival and a very strong opponent. However, this game demonstrated a marked improvement over their previous outings, especially on the defensive end. Gainesville has a chance to score their first victory next Saturday as they travel north to take on a beatable Middleburg (2-4) team.

For Buchholz, they were able to score a huge win over a long time rival. There were, however, a lot of sloppy aspects to their performance that Coach Whittlemore and his staff will want to clean up before playing host to a good Fletcher (3-3) outfit.