Arguably, in recent years, the kings of high school football in Alachua and Marion County, respectively, have been Buchholz and Vanguard.
So when they got together on Friday night at Booster Stadium, a very entertaining contest was expected. And both teams did not disappoint, as the visiting Bobcats got a 37-yard field goal from Reed Rousseau with 14 seconds left to claim a 24-21 victory.
“There were a lot of athletes on the pitch,” said BHS coach Mark Whittemore. “They have athletes. We have athletes. That’s what you get when you put them together.
VHS coach Edwin Farmer added: “It was a brilliant game between two very competitive teams. It was about who made the fewest mistakes tonight, and it was them. But it was exciting, and I imagine it was great for the fans to watch.
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Here are the takeaways from the game.
The winning move
Before the game-winner, Rousseau had been perfect with three extra points, but missed a 32-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter.
It didn’t matter, because Whittemore trusted the elder to deliver the kick that mattered most and dispatched Rousseau to try for a 42-yarder in the final minute. A Vanguard penalty put the kick 37 yards out and there Rousseau left no doubt.
“He’s a really tough kid,” Whittemore said. “We have complete confidence in him.”
Big plays on the fourth down
Neither team was content to use fourth down just to throw.
Along with Rousseau’s game-winning kick, Buchholz (4-0) scored the first touchdown of the night on a 15-yard pass from Florida’s commitment Creed Whittemore, Mark’s son, to James Williams in fourth and fifth.
The Knights (3-2) also made good use of fourth down a few times.
Riley Smith blocked a punt on fourth down late in the first quarter that set up a 15-yard touchdown pass from Fred Gaskin to Lenard Hill three snaps later. And on the first set of the final quarter, Gaskin found Tay’juan Farmer-Leslie fourth-and-second of Buchholz’s 32 for a touchdown.
Quarterback Showcase: Creed Whittemore and Fred Gaskin
A senior, Creed Whittemore is expected to play wide receiver at UF, like his older brother, Trent. And Gaskin, a junior who counts Florida, Alabama, Auburn and Penn State among his 24 scholarship offers, projects himself as a defensive back.
But each delivered special plays to the quarterback on Friday.
Whether the down and the distance were as small as three meters or as long as 30, Whittemore and Gaskin were called upon to shake things up.
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Whittemore finished the night with two passing touchdowns (to Williams and later, for 45 yards to fellow Gator committed Jaren Hamilton) and a 2-yard rushing TD on the fourth. Vanguard did a good job forcing a lot of incompleteness, but Whittemore’s unofficial lines of 10 of 28 for 166 yards and two touchdowns, plus 19 carries for 112 yards and a score, showed the work of a very effective player. .
“Whittemore made plays when they needed to,” Farmer said. “He’s a very good athlete.”
Gaskin responded with touchdown passes to Hill and Farmer-Leslie and a 32-yard run on a quarterback draw midway through the fourth. Unofficially, he went 17 of 30 for 167 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, and with 11 carries for 102 yards and a score.
When asked if Gaskin offered any surprises, Mark Whittemore smirked and said “No, we knew how good he is.”
Bobcats Money Trend
Vanguard entered the contest having won 8 of 10 regular season games against Buchholz, dating back to 2004.
Some have been close, including BHS’s two wins at Citizens Field (33-32 in 2015 and 28-21 in OT in 2009), as well as a 25-14 win for the Knights at Booster Stadium in 2018.
Others have been blistering wins for VHS, including three from 2010-12 where the Knights outscored the Bobcats by a combined 118-0.
Mark Whittemore pointed this out to his team after the game.
“I told them it wasn’t easy at all to beat them, especially here,” Whittemore said. “Winning at Booster Stadium is really tough. So it’s a big win against an outstanding program.