Seven wins. A 5-0 record in district play. And a 25th straight playoff appearance.
That is how head coach Scott Wilson and the Mainland football team will choose to remember the 2018 season, which came to bitter end with a 31-16 loss to No. 6 seed Miami Northwestern in the opening round of the playoffs on the night of Friday, Nov. 9.
Playing at home, the No. 3 seeded Buccaneers gave up 370 passing yards and three touchdowns to Bulls quarterback Isaiah Velez.
The Buccaneers’ defense played well in spurts, but was burned by several big plays.
The Bulls scored their first touchdown on a screen pass that went for 30 yards in the second quarter. And after the Buccaneers’ Everald Reid intercepted a pass that set up a 1-yard touchdown run by senior running back D’Andre McMillian — Mainland’s first score of the game — the Bulls answered with a 78-yard touchdown on the ensuing drive. The Bulls then scored on a 58-yard screen pass with under a minute to play in the third quarter.
“A lot of times when you’re playing a team from down south, the big time plays are what makes the difference,” Wilson said after the game. “That’s kind of what we saw happen tonight.”
“The one thing that the boys never did was give up. And for that I’m the most proud.”
Mainland coach Scott Wilson
Wilson went on to describe Mainland’s offense as “terrible” — at least for the first half. The Buccaneers made adjustments at halftime and managed to put some points on the board after going scoreless the first two scoreless.
In addition to McMillian’s touchdown run, Buccaneers quarterback Taron Keith rolled out of the pocket on what was initially designed as a pass play. The junior speedster saw a hole in the defense and sprinted 87 yards untouched for a touchdown. The score cut the Bulls’ lead to 10 with 10 minutes left in regulation.
“What a special football player he is,” Wilson said of Keith. “He made it happen with his legs tonight. It was amazing.”
Many of Mainland’s players headed straight to the locker room after Friday night’s loss, disappointed with the outcome. The Buccaneers closed out the season with a 7-4 record and for many, including McMillian, offensive weapon Andrew Plummer and defensive stud Kevon McCrary, it was their last high school football game ever.
However, Wilson said this Mainland team was one of the youngest he’s had in about five years. And although the Buccaneers will be back to practice in about a week, arguably the most important part of Wilson’s job is up next.
“Where are these boys going to end up in life?” he said. “That’s what we’re going to be working on: getting these kids into school and making sure that they’re going to become great men, great fathers and just giving back to their community eventually.”