Too many mistakes for Bobcats, Tigers stay undefeated

Buchholz Bobcat running back Kelvin Peebles (20) tries to round the corner but is tackled by Columbia Tigers defender Bryan Williams (28) in Lake City. The Tigers beat the Bobcats 34-10.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Friday, September 13, 2013 at 7:37 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, September 13, 2013 at 7:37 p.m.

LAKE CITY — It's tough enough to come to Tiger Stadium and attempt to upset Class 6A No. 3 Columbia, but when you commit three turnovers in one half that task becomes impossible.

The Tigers took advantage of three Buchholz turnovers Friday night and junior running back Lonnie Underwood had another big night, rushing for 153 yards in less than three quarters of play with five touchdowns as Columbia cruised over Buchholz, 34-10, scoring 20 of its points in the second quarter.

Buchholz (2-1) opened the game with a picture-perfect drive, with running back Gerald Donald getting the call for the first six plays. But on his seventh carry, after a 10-yard gain to reach the Tigers' 5-yard line, he lost the ball and Columbia recovered.

It was missed opportunities like that which kept the Bobcats from making it more of a contest.

“Not only did we fumble, but we fumbled at very inopportune places,” said Buchholz coach Mark Whittemore. “We gave them the short field several times. We took ourselves out of a competitive game.”

Underwood, who scored four touchdowns in the Tigers' 28-14 upset over 7A No. 4 Lincoln in Tallahassee last week, had touchdown runs of 8, 3, 18, 10 and 13 yards against the Bobcats. Oftentimes he shook away from potential tackles and would find openings with his cutbacks.

“He has played outstanding,” said Columbia coach Brian Allen, whose team improves to 3-0. “He has gotten better every week that we have played. The line in front of him, the fullbacks and wide receivers have helped because he can't do it by himself. He is an exceptional running back with great vision.”

After Underwood scored his first TD midway through the first quarter for a 7-3 Tiger lead, Buchholz had its only touchdown drive, getting a 19-yard pass from Jackson White to Naquan Howard, with an additional 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct by Columbia. Five plays later, White hit Quinlan Washington on a 16-yard TD strike, and it was 10-7 Buchholz.

But a 20-point second quarter by Columbia proved to be the difference.

After a pair of Underwood runs for scores, the Bobcats fumbled on a kickoff, with the Tigers taking over at the Buchholz 17. Two plays later, Underwood ran in for his fourth TD, from 10 yards, and it was 27-10.

The Columbia back, who now has 12 TDs already this season, added his final score on the first drive in the second half, running it in from 13 yards for a commanding 24-point lead.

The Tigers finished with 272 yards on the ground, getting 142 in the first half and 130 in second. Buchholz had 277 total yards, getting 161 yards passing from White. Donald, who played little in the second half, finished with 81 yards.

It was the Bobcats' success offensively in the first half that bothered Allen, whose team opens district play next week at home against Jacksonville Parker.

“Looking at last week and looking at this week, we didn't get better,” Allen said. “Getting stupid personal foul penalties is not what championship teams do. We had way too many penalties.

“That's the thing that concerns me. We have a bunch of young kids in leadership positions. It shouldn't have to be a nationally ranked or state-ranked team to get up. To win football games, and a lot of them, you need to play the same way no matter who you face.”

The Tigers had 12 penalties for 139 yards.

Whittemore wants his Bobcats to learn from the loss but not to dwell on it. The most important games start next week with district play.

“We have a lot to build on. We showed some flashes of good football play,” he said. “Whether it was special teams or offensive turnovers, we just lacked that mental discipline to finish tonight. That's something that we will have to dig down deep and make sure we emphasize that mental toughness going into a big Fleming Island game.”

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