Late fumble seals triple OT thriller for Bobcats

Buchholz linebacker Logan Weekes knocks the ball loose from visiting Bartram Trail quarterback PJ Blazejowski on Thursday night. The Bobcats defeated the Bears 24-21 in triple overtime.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, October 3, 2013 at 10:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 3, 2013 at 11:45 p.m.

For both Buchholz and St. Johns Bartram Trail, a victory on Thursday night at Citizens Field was essential.

The Bobcats, losers of two straight road games to ranked opponents and with their archrival a week away, victory was needed for momentum's sake. For the Bears, a victory was needed to break through a snakebite 0-4 start.

With that in mind, is there any surprise this game went into triple overtime?

Daniel Nicilaus kicked a 23-yard field goal to put Buchholz ahead, and Jerome Johnson and James Tomlinson made it stick, Johnson forcing a fumble on Bartram Trail's next offensive possession in triple OT and Tomlinson recovering it for a dramatic 24-21 Bobcat victory.

“It was definitely a gritty one,” said Buchholz coach Mark Whittemore, whose team improved to 3-2 on the season. “Three overtimes, that's as gritty as you can get. It is definitely a boost when you can pull out a game like that in the last seconds.

“To force a fumble, that's excellent. We have been a little lax at causing turnovers, so it is nice to win it in that fashion.”

Tied at 7-7 after a last-second field goal attempt by the Bobcats missed, the two teams went into OT for the first time this season. All three times in OT, the Bears won the coin toss and put Buchholz on offense first, starting at the 10-yard line.

After both teams traded touchdowns in the first two overtimes — Buchholz getting scores on a Jackson White 10-yard pass to Barry Moore and a Gerald Donald 2-yard run, his first TD of the season — the game went into the third OT.

This time, however, the Bobcats failed to score a TD, getting a procedure penalty that forced a third-and-7 incompletion in the left corner of the end zone. Nicilaus' kick put Buchholz ahead by three, but considering the Bears scored on its first play in the second OT, Bartram Trail fans seemed prepared to celebrate their first victory.

But leading rusher David Coleman, who finished with 169 yards and three TDs, fumbled after a hit from Johnson and Tomlinson quickly dove for the football.

“At first I just grabbed his hips, then his ankle and the ball came out,” Johnson said.

“I was coming from across the field to pick it up,” Tomlinson said. “I had to get it. I layed on it and covered it up.”

The game went three quarters without a score, but both teams found the end zone in the fourth. Donald had runs of 12 and 36 yards, setting up the Bobcats at the Bears' 4. Three plays later, White handed off to Quinlan Washington, who tossed the football to a wide-open Jared Goar for a 4-yard TD pass and a 7-0 Buchholz lead with 8:34 left.

Bartram Trail (0-5) got renewed life after a high snap on a punt attempt went over the head of Buchholz punter Nicilaus, who was tackled after recovering it at the Bobcat 7. On the Bears' first offensive play, Coleman covered the distance and the game was tied at 7 with 3:43 left.

White completed 12 of 20 passes for 146 yards and was nearly perfect in the second half, going 11 of 13 for 113 yards and one TD. Donald finished with 96 yards, 76 of which came in the second half.

“The first half I did a decent job, and we had a few drops there,” White said. “In the second half, I got my reads down, got the ball out quickly and I was able to scramble a little bit there. We had some big plays, especially in the fourth quarter.

“It is a huge morale booster for our team. We really got our stuff together. I think this will help us going forward.”

Next up for the Bobcats is Gainesville next Friday. Buchholz has lost its last four meetings against the Hurricanes.

“Obviously Gainesville High is a tremendous club and playing against a pretty efficient offense that Bartram Trail has displayed the last four games, that is a plus for us,” Whittemore said. “Offensively, we have some issues we have to deal with. We are not efficient. We are not showing the consistency we need to be a championship squad.

“We are going to have to grind it next week and get ready for Gainesville High and a thriller here at Citizens Field.”

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