Buchholz vs. Columbia takeaways: Big matchup features bad weather, top recruits and drama

Ainslie Lee
The Gainesville Sun
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If Gainesville's first regular-season high school football game of the year was any indication of how this season will play out, buckle up, folks. 

There was no shortage of drama on Thursday night as the Lake City Columbia Tigers visited the Buchholz Bobcats at Citizens Field in a battle of two of the area's top football programs, which naturally featured some of the best players in area. 

When all was said and done at 10:45 p.m., the Bobcats were the ones able to put a checkmark in the win column after topping the Tigers 31-14. 

Here are five takeaways from the matchup.

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Rainesville rolls in, football rolls around

Thursday's high-caliber matchup was one that people from all over the state had been waiting on. And as fate would have it, Mother Nature was going to make them wait a little longer. 

Initially scheduled for a 7 p.m. kickoff, the Bobcats and Tigers didn't get going until about 8:15 p.m. thanks to an early evening storm that rolled in around 6:30.

While the lines at the gate grew, conversations between athletic directors, coaches, officials and sports medicine staffs continued before everyone agreed to let the teams take the field at 7:45 p.m. 

While the rain dissipated, there was no getting rid of the puddles on the field or the completely saturated soil beneath the turf. 

"We've played when it's about like this before," Buchholz head coach Mark Whittemore said. "The field gets like this after a deluge. It's just real spongy."

Like any game played on a soggy field, ball security quickly became an evident issue for both teams. 

Columbia committed two costly fumbles early, while an errant snap flew 22 yards over the head of Buchholz quarterback Creed Whittemore in the Bobcats' first possession. 

"We both had to play on it," Columbia coach Demetric Jackson said. "Fortunately, I can't say it was an advantage for them. We had to play on it just like they did. We just gotta take care of the ball."

Buchholz's blue chip recruits shine

Buchholz quarterback Creed Whittemore (2) and Kendall Jackson (8) celebrate after a touchdown by Whittemore against the Columbia Tigers during the opening football game of the season at Citizens Field in Gainesville, Aug. 25, 2022.

It's no secret that the Bobcats are loaded with talent. 

Buchholz has a pair of players committed to Florida in Whittemore and senior defensive end Gavin Hill, in addition to senior wide receiver Jaren Hamilton and junior defensive lineman Kendall Jackson, who both have the opportunity to go to just about any college football program they desire. 

But having that much talent on one roster only does a team good if the talent actually shows up. And it did on Thursday night. 

"I felt like each of our kids that are collegiate-level recruits, played collegiate-level-recruit football," Mark Whittemore said.

Offensively, it was Creed Whittemore who led the charge for the Bobcats with a pair of rushing touchdowns — one from 66 yards out — and a 40-yard touchdown pass to Hamilton. 

Meanwhile, Hill and Jackson, a tandem that Mark Whittemore fittingly calls "the twin towers" terrorized the Tigers' quarterbacks all four quarters and played a major role in keeping Columbia's offense from moving the sticks. 

Columbia quarterbacks have roller coaster night

The keys to the Columbia offense belong to senior Tyler Jefferson, who transferred from Hawthorne to reunite with Jackson, who he played his first two seasons under at Fort White. 

Jefferson got the start on Thursday night and struggled early, fumbling the football on 4th and 2 in the Tigers' first possession. 

Two drives later, Jackson called on junior Evan Umstead to pilot the Columbia offense. In his first drive, with the help of 45 yards worth of Buchholz penalties, Umstead marched the Tigers 47 yards down the field before tossing a 25-yard dime to senior Dailyn Bradly. 

However, in Umstead's next trip out to the field, he threw a pick six, which prompted the return of Jefferson, who four drives later launched a 75-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Bynton Edge. 

"Both of them did some good things, both of them did some bad things," Jackson said. "Tyler, right now, is our starter. But Evan will continue to get some reps. He'll continue to get some playing time... We've just got to stay away from the turnovers."

Jacarree Kelly is a player to watch

Buchholz defender Jacarree Kelly (9) runs with the ball after making an interception against Columbia during the opening football game of the season at Citizens Field in Gainesville, Aug. 25, 2022.

It can be said that Buchholz senior Jacarree Kelly is overshadowed by the talent around him. But if he continues on the tear that he's on, it won't be like that for long. 

For the second week in a row, Kelly recorded a pick-6, while also helping the Bobcats on offense — including a 60-yard touchdown rush that was called back for a hold.

"He's a kid that is extremely athletic," Mark Whittemore said. "He's a collegiate player. He's got collegiate offers. He will play on Saturdays."

Fourth-quarter scare caps off dramatic game

With just more than four and a half minutes to play, the players on the Columbia sideline dropped to their stomachs before taking off toward to the wooded area behind the north end zone. 

It wasn't long after that panic set in and the Buchholz sideline followed suit, while spectators scattered from the stands. 

According to both coaches, they were told that an altercation occurred between two spectators and a taser was deployed, which caused a noise that was mistaken as a gunshot. 

After just minutes of uncertainty, law enforcement officers assured the area was safe and play resumed. 

"I thought the officers from GPD and ASO did a fantastic job of assessing the situation," Mark Whittemore said. "Really kudos to them. I'm glad they're here."

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