Bobcats stick with winning formula in spring
Published: Friday, May 24, 2013 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, May 24, 2013 at 11:11 p.m.
After putting Buchholz football back in the state playoffs in his first year, including an upset of Class 7A No. 2 Jacksonville First Coast in the first round, Mark Whittemore's outlook hasn't changed much.
“Giving great effort is my motto,” he said after his Bobcats beat Orange Park Oakleaf 10-6 in a spring exhibition game Friday night at Citizens Field.
Last year, the Bobcats ran on the legs of Kenny Scott, the area's fourth leading rusher with 1,660 yards and 15 touchdowns, who finished his career with a personal-best 312 yards in a regional semifinal loss at Tallahassee Lincoln.
Whittemore may have found someone who is ready to step up.
Incoming junior Gerald Donald, who didn't play football a year ago, sure looked like he knew what he was doing Friday, especially in the first half when he rushed for 111 of his 118 yards. He had six runs of more than 10 yards with his longest 35 yards, getting great blocks along the way and putting the Bobcats at the Oakleaf 2-yard line.
“We are really pleased with him,” Whittemore said. “He was a kid that did not come out soon enough last fall so he didn't play. He played basketball. I got him out this spring, and I'm really excited about him as a talent. He is a good little linebacker too.”
The Bobcats have good size along both the offensive and defensive fronts. At times, they put 6-foot-1, 310-pound Jerome Johnson in the backfield as a blocking back.
“Both our offensive and defensive line coaches, John Peacock and Justin Chesser, are former Bobcats on the staff, and they are doing a really good job with the up-front people. Our up-front people are getting stronger in the weight room and are making a commitment in pushing the line of scrimmage.”
There is also competition at quarterback where incoming senior Jordan Nichols and incoming sophomore Jackson White are toe-to-toe for the moment, according to Whittemore. Although White had the better passing night, completing 7-of-8 throws for 53 yards and a 9-yard touchdown to Barry Moore in the first quarter. Nichols did have the longest completion, however, a 34-yard connection with Laron James, who appeared to take the ball away from teammate Naquan Howard.
“If things go the way we want them to, we will have a starter by the Eastside game (Aug. 30),” Whittemore said. “Right now they are still battling. I think both of them bring pretty good decision-making to the table. It will be a good battle moving forward.”
Oakleaf, which is coached by former Bradford coach Derek Chipoletti, moved up from 6A to 7A and will play with Buchholz in District 3, which also includes Jacksonville Atlantic Coast, Neptune Beach Fletcher and Orange Park Fleming Island.
“Our mentality is we want to better the record from last year,” said Whittemore, who, despite reaching the regional semifinals last season, had a 6-6 overall record. “They are not going into it hopeful, but with an expectation that if we work hard we can achieve great things.”