It’s that time of the year again, the smell of football season is in the air. High schools all around Florida, including around Alachua County, are officially underway with practices. Monday was the first day for teams to get to work and capitalizing on that opportunity is Buchholz coach Mark Whittemore.
The team that’s fresh off a 5-6 season and who made it to the state playoffs for the third consecutive year, including in 2015 and 2016 winning the 7 A District 3 championship, is ready for yet another tough schedule. The team had a losing record last season, but made it to the playoffs because of their strength of schedule. Whittemore thinks this season will be just as challenging.
“Fleming Island is terrific. Oakleaf is rebuilding, but has tons of athletes. Creekside is going to be a tough opponent.”
Whittemore also thinks Bartram Trail is reloaded and thinks their quarterback is D-1 talented. The district is extremely difficult, but because of that, more teams make it in to the playoff. Last year 3 teams made it in, and Whittemore believes there is “no doubt” that will happen again this year.
In order to prepare for the season, Buchholz attends a camp every summer at Valdosta State. It’s there that the team gets to learn from college coaches, partake in drills, and scrimmage other teams. Whittemore thinks this camp that they attend annually helps build team chemistry and allows the team to stay sharp. The 6-10 opposing teams that are in the camp provide Whittemore’s team the ability to get numerous reps in scrimmages.
One thing that Whittemore really likes about the camp is that Valdosta State films the scrimmages and gives them to the coaches to watch with their team. He says they will take 2 1/2 days and review the scrimmages with the team. Whittemore feels that this camp “gives us a chance to segue from the spring to the start of the season without losing sharpness.”
It’s camps like these that allow Buchholz’ new additions and inexperienced players to step up. Whitemore says the biggest loss the team experienced was on the line on both sides of the ball. The team lost much senior leadership, but at the same time, there’s a silver lining. Whitemore’s excited to get two years to work with his three junior offensive lineman that are all rising in the 2020 class. The team also has two “solid” senior guards on the o-line.
The one area that Buchholz has depth at is quarterback. Camden Orth is the incumbent starter who has fully recovered from last year’s near season ending injury. He’s the captain of the offense and is an important face to have behind center. Backing him is Whittemore’s son Trent Whittemore. “He’s there if needed,” says Whittemore.