Kickoff classics are a time to work out the jitters. Mainland did that in its final preseason scrimmage Aug. 19 at Matanzas.
After a first-quarter marred by penalties, the Bucs exploded for four touchdowns in a span of 5:08 to defeat the Pirates 35-7.
"We just settled down," Mainland coach Travis Roland said. "Holding penalties you see happen early. Once we cleaned them up we were fine."
Matanzas coach Matt Forrest was buoyed by the Pirates' third-quarter scoring drive, which spanned the entire period under a running clock. Quarterback Dakwon Evans scored on a 1-yard run.
"For our first game action, I thought we did really well." Forrest said. "Our third-quarter drive was a very methodical, disciplined drive. We're going to need drives like that coming out of halftime."
Both teams open the season at home. Matanzas hosts Pine Ridge on Thursday, Aug. 25, in a game that was moved because of a shortage of officials. Mainland faces Volusia County rival DeLand on Friday, Aug. 26.
"We only have two rivalries," Roland said of Seabreeze and DeLand. "We're excited that we get to out there and get after it."
The kickoff classic was delayed for nearly an hour because of lightning. The teams played on a muddy field that got worse as the game progressed. Matanzas stopped Mainland on its opening drive with a goal-line stand, but running back Corey Hill scored on a 25-yard run with 5:34 left in the first quarter to give the Bucs a 7-0 lead.
They didn't score again until 5:08 left in the second quarter, but by the time the half was over, Mainland's lead had swollen to 35-0.
Quarterback Damarcus Creecy scored on a 51-yard run. Cameron Boatwright intercepted an Evans pass, and Creecy turned that into a 27-yard scoring run. Bert Plummer intercepted another Evans pass, and Creecy hit L.J. McCray with an 11-yard touchdown pass to put the Bucs up 28-0 with 2:16 left in the half.
"Damarcus (Creecy) showed why he's one of the top quarterbacks in the state. College coaches wondered how well he runs the ball, and I think he answered that."
— TRAVIS ROLAND, Mainland football coach
"Damarcus showed why he's one of the top quarterbacks in the state," Roland said of the Spruce Creek transfer. "College coaches wondered how well he runs the ball, and I think he answered that."
The Bucs weren't done. They got the ball back with a half second on the clock at their own 29. Creecy tossed a screen pass to Ajai Harrell, who ran through the Pirates' defense for a 71-yard touchdown reception.
"We try to work on situations all the time in practice," Roland said. "We wanted to treat that like an end-of-the-game situation. We called timeout and set the play up. Ajai's Ajai. He can run away from the defense. People always question how fast he can be. He broke a couple of tackles and put on a couple of moves."
Forrest said the Pirates have to focus on not giving up the big play, but he added that during the season they won't see many teams on Mainland's level.
"That was our first live scrimmage against one of the best teams in the area, if not one of the best teams in the state," Forrest said. "It was just really great play-making. The coaches put their kids in good situations, and they executed."
Matanzas junior defensive back/receiver Jordan Mills took a hard hit from a Mainland blocker in the first quarter and his helmet flew off. Mills underwent concussion tests on the sideline and did not play the rest of the game. Forrest said Mills will be day-to-day but added that he received a positive prognosis on Saturday.
Mainland, meanwhile, did not play defensive backs Zavier Mincey and Phillip Moore. Both players are expected to return for the season opener.