Preseason football: Buchholz wins battle of Gainesville vs. Ocala at Trinity Catholic

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OCALA — After 18 days of fall camp, the Buchholz Bobcats and Trinity Catholic Celtics finally had an opportunity to hit someone in a different colored jersey on Friday night as the Bobcats traveled to Dunlap Field to take on the Celtics in both program's preseason classic.

Come next week, the result of the preseason matchup will be moot. But that was far from the case on Friday night.

"There's a reason they turn on that scoreboard," Trinity Catholic head coach John Brantley said. "I tell the kids that all time. There's value in that."

Both program's varsity squads took the field for the opening half before allowing reserves and junior varsity players to polish off the game.

In varsity competition, Buchholz topped Trinity Catholic 28-7.

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Here are three takeaways from Friday night's preseason showing.

New year, same Buchholz defense

Buchholz High School Gavin Hill (6) goes after Trinity Catholic quarterback Alan Means (11) during their preseason game in Ocala, Florida on Aug. 19, 2022.
Buchholz High School Gavin Hill (6) goes after Trinity Catholic quarterback Alan Means (11) during their preseason game in Ocala, Florida on Aug. 19, 2022.

Last fall, the Buchholz defense allowed just more than 10 points per game.

However, after graduating their top five leading tacklers, it was unclear how the Bobcats would come out in 2022. But if Friday night was any indication, Buchholz's defense won't be of any concern (unless you're the opposing offense, of course).

In just one half of play, the Bobcats recorded three interceptions, of which two were returned to the end zone for a pair of defensive touchdowns.

Senior defensive end Gavin Hill, who committed to the Florida Gators on June 25, scored Buchholz's first touchdown of the night after getting his paw on a pass at the line of scrimmage, collecting it from the air and returning it 50 yards for a pick-6.

"I just put my hand up, tipped it, saw it coming down and caught it," Hill said. "And then I just ran."

Later in the second quarter, Buchholz senior Ja'Carree Kelly wrestled away a reception from a Celtics' receiver before racing 50 yards to the end zone for the Bobcats' second pick-6 of the night.

"I like where we are," Buchholz head coach Mark Whittemore said of his defense. "We had one miscue. But overall, I like where we are. I like our intensity."

Trinity Catholic quarterback Alan Means (11) against Buchholz in their preseason game in Ocala, on Aug. 19, 2022.
Trinity Catholic quarterback Alan Means (11) against Buchholz in their preseason game in Ocala, on Aug. 19, 2022.

QB battle still alive and well at Trinity Catholic

Technically speaking, senior Jake Englehardt was the Celtics' "starting" quarterback on Friday night.

Englehardt was the first Trinity Catholic quarterback to take the field on Friday night, but he and junior Alan Means alternated every other series. Sophomore Preston Wright was also slated to be in the rotation, but wasn't available Friday due to an injury.

Nonetheless, Trinity Catholic's QB1 is all but set in stone.

"It's a job to be had," Brantley said of the quarterback battle. "That's why you're seeing them alternate possessions because no one it taking it by the hook and running with it."

The Celtics' drives were longer with Means under center, though the junior signal caller was responsible for all three interceptions. Means was also responsible for Trinity Catholic's biggest pass play of the night — a 20-yard connection with junior wide receiver John Hayes.

Meanwhile, Englehardt piloted the Celtics during their lone touchdown drive, which was capped off by a 40-yard scoring scamper from senior Beau Beard.

"When we jump on that bus to Tallahassee, hopefully we have a better idea of who are quarterback is going to be," Brantley said. "If not, we'll play both of them."

Creed and company are fun to watch

It's crazy to think that Buchholz senior Creed Whittemore is being recruited as a wide receiver.

One look at the Florida commit's 70-yard touchdown pass to fellow senior Jaren Hamilton will have most assuming that he's bound to line up under center with the Gators.

But the reality is it doesn't matter how Billy Napier and the Gators plan to use him.

Right now he has the keys to the Buchholz offense. And with as many weapons as the Bobcats have, that's like driving a Lamborghini.

The Buchholz offense didn't spend much time on the field on Friday night. In fact, according to the Bobcats' quarterback, he took just 12 snaps. But boy, if he and the offense didn't make the most of those 12 plays.

Before his 70-yard house call to Hamilton, Creed Whittemore connected with Kelly for a 25-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

In the backfield, junior Quinton Cutler shouldered the vast majority of the carries, but never quite broke free for a big gain.

"The ability for us to put up 28 points in a half, for us right now, that's something we can be proud about," Creed Whittemore said.

This article originally appeared on The Gainesville Sun: High school football: Buchholz defense shines at preseason classic in Ocala