What can Mainland’s football team do as an encore? Perhaps, go one step further than last year.
The Buccaneers advanced to the Class 3S championship game last season, falling to Lake Wales, 32-30. With their returning players along with some newcomers, the Bucs could wind up in the state title game again, led by a strong defense and a big offensive line.
“We’ve got a great linebacker corps,” Mainland coach Travis Roland said. “I think we’ve got one of the best linebacker corps in the state, one of the best defenses in the state.”
And yet, the Bucs’ offense has been ahead of the defense in spring practice so far.
“The offense is kicking our butt,” Roland said. “Coach Snap Wood (the Bucs’ offensive coordinator) is doing a great job. Our offensive line is amazing. We’ve got people movers up front. We’re excited that we can have a Miami Central-size O-line like they had in those (2012-2014) seasons where they can just move people.”
The Bucs will get a preview of their 2023 team on May 25 in their spring game against West Orange.
Mainland lost its leader on its offensive line in Malcolm Curry but return Jaelin Long, Christian Hudson and Madden Santiago. They also have Spruce Creek transfers Colin Wilson and Elijah Walker, who were both at Mainland when they were freshmen.
Their linebacker corps includes Dennis King, Myron Shafer, Malik Daniels and Flagler Palm Coast transfer Rodney Hill.
We’ve got a great linebacker corps.I think we’ve got one of the best linebacker corps in the state, one of the best defenses in the state.” — TRAVIS ROLAND, Mainland football coach
“R.J. (Hill) is adjusting well,” Roland said. “Tank (King) is doing an amazing job stepping into the middle linebacker role and being a leader. Myron is one of the strongest kids on our football team. And Malik Daniels is our most versatile linebackers that we have here right now. Adding R.J. to that makes them one of the best linebacker corps in the state.”
The Bucs also have top 100 prospects Zavier Mincey at safety and LJ McCray at defensive end as well as defensive lineman Ramon McCollough returning.
They’ve added FPC transfer Ely Gilyard and E’zaiah Shine to the defensive backfield. Shine returns to Mainland after spending last season at Spruce Creek.
They also have added former Seabreeze players Khamani Robinson and Marquis McCants. McCants played for Mainland as a freshman and sophomore and is now back with the Bucs for his senior season, Roland said.
“These kids have all played together for the Daytona Beach Cowboys and the Daytona Beach Bucs (Pop Warner team), and now we have all those kids back together,” Roland said. “The kids that left Daytona to play for the Ormond Beach Pride, all of them are back here. About 85% of our team are kids that played in our feeder programs.”
The Bucs lost running back Jackie Bowdry, whose family moved to Atlanta, Roland said.
“Our running back room is fluid,” Roland said. “Corey Hill is back. We lost him to injury (last year), and we have some other guys in the fold.”
The Bucs will try to make the playoffs for the 30th straight season and once there they could take care of some unfinished business, but the team won't be resting on past success.
“We got a lot of guys that came back from last year’s team, and we have a couple of additions that put you in a real good category,” Roland said. “But we got to play the games. We can’t look past anybody. We’ve got to work hard. We’re working hard this spring. Our offense is kind of having some success against (the defense), so that’s a good thing for us to see that we aren’t invincible.”