Bobcats edge Rams in grind-it-out game


Quinlan Washington (1), of the Buchholz Bobcats, runs with the ball during the season-opening football game against the Eastside Rams at Citizens Field in Gainesville.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Friday, August 30, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 12:31 a.m.

Buchholz didn't open the high school football season convincingly, but coach Mark Whittemore knew a lopsided win would be off the table.

In keeping with tradition, the cross-town showdown between the Bobcats and Eastside Rams went down to the final minutes. The past two years, Eastside pulled out wins in the final minute.

This time, however, Buchholz expanded its early lead and won 13-6.

“Buchholz and Eastside have played each other for 30-some-odd years, which is great because you know what you're going to get every year, and that's a hard-fought game,” Whittemore said. “Out of the 30-some-odd games I've been involved in as a player and coach at Buchholz, I don't remember it ever being a runaway. This is what you expect, just to grind it out.”

After starting the season with a delay-of-game penalty on its band, Buchholz reached the end zone on its opening drive behind a 40-yard kickoff return by Naquan Howard and 5-yard scoring pass from sophomore quarterback Jackson White to junior slot receiver Quinlan Washington.

White, Washington and senior tight end Jordan Nichols were all in the running to start under center, but Whittemore said he chose White in order to utilize the experience elsewhere on the field.

Washington came in at quarterback in the second quarter and ran for each snap he took, amassing 43 yards on eight carries. Junior running back Gerald Donald led the Bobcats (1-0) with 84 yards on 21 carries.

Eastside, with sophomore Landon Rogers replacing standout Sir Jackson at quarterback, forced and recovered a Buchholz fumble to start its scoring drive. Rogers faked a handoff and found junior tight end Barry Johnson in the end zone for the 5-yard touchdown.

The Rams' (0-1) offense only threatened the end zone one other time, but the Eastside defense forced three turnovers from the Bobcats.

“We've got talented kids on this team,” Eastside coach Jeff Parker said. “But they feel like sometimes they can turn it on and turn it off. We've got to get it into their systems that that's not the right way to do it.”

Eastside continues its brutal schedule the next two weeks against two of the area's top teams: Gainesville and Ocala Trinity Catholic.

“We want the kids to play the best this area has to offer,” Parker said. “This is about getting ready for districts and seeing what we've got. Buchholz is going to beat a lot of people this year. This was a test for us. What's important now is how we bounce back and get ready for the next one.”

The game's only fireworks came from the sky, as intermittent lightning flashed throughout the game. The officials called for a lightning delay after one play in the second half but brought the teams out after the minimum 30-minute wait.

The teams traded penalties and turnovers without consequence until the fourth quarter, when Buchholz's junior cornerback Laron James picked off an easy interception and returned it 35 yards to the end zone.

“That play was huge,” Whittemore said. “It was there, but he still looked it into his hands. As a corner, those are awful when you miss them. I was pleased that he was good about that.”

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