LIVE OAK — Standing outside the fence at Langford Stadium as a kid, Jaquez Moore was carried away by the roar of the Suwannee faithful.
Whether it was Aaron McCallister, Joe Combs, Denzel Washington or Steven Anderson making the big play that sent the Bulldog fans into a frenzy, Moore just knew he wanted to be just like them.
“I just always wanted to be in that spotlight,” Moore said. “I would say, ‘Look at how the town loves them.’ I just wanted that for myself.”
In guiding SHS to an 8-3 mark and a second-round berth in the Class 5A playoffs, Moore provided plenty of those plays that made the crowd go wild, rushing for 1,270 yards and 19 touchdowns — numbers almost double of anybody else in the area — while also throwing for 1,259 yards and 16 touchdowns — also far and above the area’s best numbers — to earn the honor of the Lake City Reporter’s Offensive Player of the Year.
“Everybody can run the football, everybody can catch, everybody can throw. But there’s always something that separates one guy from the others and that’s always what I wanted to do,” Moore said of the recognition. “Just to see all that hard work pay off, it means a lot. It’s amazing.”
In his lone year at the helm of the Bulldogs’ offense, Moore was amazing.
After three years of playing anywhere and everywhere on the field for SHS — Moore entered the year with 1,140 yards and 24 touchdowns rushing, 565 yards and five touchdowns receiving along with three interceptions including two returned for touchdowns as well as a kickoff return touchdown and a score on a punt return — the 5-foot-11, 195-pound athlete was handed the keys to the Bulldog offense for his final season. He also still played defensive back, picking off three passes.
SHS coach Kyler Hall said the three years of watching Moore show his talent at all those other positions, whether it was running back or wide receiver, return man or defensive back, while also seeing the glimpses of him during his stints behind center, he had no doubts about what Moore could do.
However, without a spring practice and the summer schedule altered as well due to the covid-19 pandemic, Hall wasn’t entirely certain what Moore all would be able to do, just from that lack of reps.
“We threw so much at Jaquez as far as assignments and checks, he handled everything like a veteran quarterback,” Hall said. “I think he was a guy that was just ready for the moment when it comes to that position. I don’t think that’s the case for just any regular kid that you try to do that with.”
Moore, though, isn’t just a regular player.
Even without having played quarterback the past few years, Moore brought several key components to the SHS offense as its signal caller, Hall and SHS offensive coordinator Mark Beach said.
He’s a hard worker and a student of the game, who possesses a strong arm. On top of that, there’s his running ability.
That danger to make plays — big plays — with his legs was a dynamic that the coaches were excited to exploit.
There was no better example than Oct. 2 when Buchholz visited Suwannee and Moore put on a show in the Bulldogs’ eventual 59-42 loss.
The blockbuster featured 26 carries, 350 yards and five touchdowns.
“They were daring us to run,” Beach said, noting Buchholz kept playing with just four or five defenders in the box. “You don’t dare a guy like Quez to run because, obviously, that’s what he does to you.”
Moore added: “I was just playing backyard football. Coach Hall would call the play, I would make the read and then I’m just running around like a duck without a head.”
Add in 137 yards and another touchdown passing and it was quite the show, one that won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
“It was one of the more impressive performances I’ve ever seen,” Hall said. “I don’t know if you’ll see another one like that.
“It was fun to be able to watch it. Going back and watching film, you’re like, ‘Wow, that’s next-level stuff.’”
Moore, a top student who signed to play running back at Duke during December’s early signing period, won’t be forgotten anytime soon either, accomplishing another goal from someone who strived to reach the heights of those SHS greats that came before him like an Andra Davis or a Matt Jackson or even a Kyler Hall.
“All those guys just pushed me to be better,” he said. “They’ll go down in Suwannee history, Suwannee football history, and I just wanted to be part of it, that when they mention those guys, they also mention Jaquez Moore.”
QB: Jaquez Moore
The LCR’s Offensive Player of the Year did it with both his arm and legs. Moore rushed for 1,270 yards and 19 touchdowns and threw for 1,259 yards and 16 touchdowns — all area bests. It resulted in an offer from Duke, where he signed in December. On top of that, he played some defense too, forcing two fumbles, recovering two fumbles and intercepting three passes.
RB: Bodhi White
The top running back in the area rushed for nine touchdowns and 727 yards (7.1 per carry) with three 100-plus yard games.
RB: Malachi Graham
Was the top running back for the Bulldogs, rushing for 539 yards (5.3 per carry) with four touchdowns.
ATH: Marcus Peterson
Did it all for the Tigers, going from receiver to quarterback to punter and even defensive back. He caught 19 passes for 286 yards and a team-high seven touchdowns, threw for a team-high 635 yards and six touchdowns, rushed for 205 yards and four touchdowns, and averaged 33.8 yards per punt, pinning 11 inside the 20-yard line. Oh, and he had a game-clinching interception against North Miami Beach.
WR: Tra’ Tolliver
Finished the season with a team-high 752 all-purpose yards, with most of it coming at receiver. He caught 25 passes for 444 yards with six touchdowns and also had 218 yards on kick returns that included another score.
WR: Wesley Jones
Led the area with eight touchdown receptions and finished the season with 34 catches for 462 yards.
OL: Colton Allen
Played tackle and guard for the 6-2 Buccaneers, who averaged over 300 yards of offense per game.
OL: Tyler Ford
Anchored the Tigers’ line at guard for an offense that averaged 231 yards per game.
OL: Mathew Mattson
Fort White, senior
Played tackle for the Indians, who bounced back from a rough start of the season to win two playoff games to reach the regional semifinals.
OL: Brian Robinson
Helped block for a Bulldogs’ offense that rushed for 1,940 yards and 26 touchdowns in 11 games, playing guard and center.
OL: Braxton Thompson
Played center and tackle for an offense that averaged more than 28 points per game.
K: Braxtyn Green
Accounted for 51 points for the Bulldogs, making 42 of 45 extra points and three of his six field goal attempts.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Allen led the most remarkable turnaround in program history after its worst start ever. Columbia began the season 0-5 for the first time following a shortened offseason due to covid-19 but Allen kept his group together. After a come-from-behind 35-34 win over North Miami Beach to get off of the schneid, the Tiger started rolling as the playoffs began. With every team receiving an automatic bid to the postseason as a result of covid-19, Columbia took advantage. The Tigers defeated Englewood 41-7, Ponte Vedra 14-0 and then Daytona Beach Mainland 28-26 to reach the regional finals for the first time since 2015. Their season ended with a loss to St Augustine but it was the deepest playoff run in the area.