For the first time since he injured his knee in the season opener, Mainland offensive lineman Malcolm Curry played for four quarters.
His knee was sore at the end, but that didn’t stop him from toting the Mainland-Seabreeze game trophy up and down the sideline after the Bucs defeated the rival Sandcrabs for the 12th straight time.
Mainland’s 51-22 victory on Oct. 28 at Daytona Stadium clinched the district championship and guaranteed the Bucs a trip to the playoffs for the 29th consecutive year.
“It’s a testament to what our coaches put them through in practice. We make it hard on them, and the kids responded tonight,” Mainland coach Travis Roland said.
Mainland quarterback Damarcus Creecy threw for 267 yards and five touchdowns and ran for 116 yards.
“The key for us was staying focused through all the talking on the internet, all the outsiders talking,” Curry said. “We just stayed focused and played our game.”
James Randle caught his first of two touchdown passes with 22 seconds left in the first half to put the Bucs ahead 22-9. Mainland then dominated the second half, taking advantage of three consecutive Seabreeze turnovers.
“For 22 minutes we had real good focus,” Seabreeze coach Pat Brown said. “That last drive (of the first half) by Mainland, we had a couple of mental busts in the back end that led to them scoring. It kind of flipped the momentum from 16-9, down one touchdown, with us having the ball coming back out in the second half to us being down two scores, 22-9. When you play against real good teams, that margin of error is way smaller.”
Seabreeze quarterback Sam Gonzalez ran for two touchdowns and accounted for over 200 yards of offense but was also intercepted twice in the second half — by Zay Mincey and Drayden Wood. The Bucs also recovered a Seabreeze fumble off a bad snap in the end zone to take a 44-16 lead with 8:02 left.
“It’s a testament to what our coaches put them through in practice. We make it hard on them, and the kids responded tonight.”
— TRAVIS ROLAND, Mainland coach
Creecy’s fifth touchdown pass of the night, a 36-yard strike to Ajai Harrell, made it 51-16 less than two minutes later.
Drew McNerney booted a 36-yard field goal in the second quarter to pull the Sandcrabs within a touchdown at 16-9. Hayden Hayes tossed a 19-yard touchdown pass Eli Campbell with 3:01 left in the game to close the scoring.
“We had some opportunities in the first half,” Brown said. “We dropped a wheel route. We missed on a post corner that was open for a touchdown. The focus went down a little bit, the spirit went down when we had (three straight) turnovers.”
Mainland (6-2) snapped Seabreeze’s four-game win streak. The Sandcrabs (4-5) still have a slim shot of joining the Bucs in the playoffs if they can beat North Marion (6-3) on the road Friday, Nov. 4, in their final regular-season game.
Heading into the Mainland game, Seabreeze was ranked 11th in the region with four district champs and four at-large teams moving on to the postseason. Only one of the three region teams ranked immediately ahead of the Sandcrabs lost on Oct. 28.
“We’ve got one more game for sure and then we’ll see where the point system ends up,” Brown said. “It’s so hard to even calculate that. It’s kind of like a secret. But if we beat North Marion, which is a playoff-caliber team, that would help us.”