The Buccaneers faced an early dog fight against the Flagler Palm Coast Bulldogs, but, with six minutes left in the first half, they began to remind everyone why they were the best team in 6A, eventually winning 35-10 Friday, Sept. 11, at FPC.
They were called for 18 penalties, lost a fumble and took nearly 18 minutes to get in their groove, but they have guys like Denzel Houston and Jachai Polite, who make all the difference between good and great teams.
Last week, Polite turned the game around with a forced and returned a fumble for a touchdown against Bartram Trail, and, tonight, he nailed a 55-yard punt that was downed at the one-yard line. Polite also finished that feat with a sack that was ruled a safety, due to intentional grounding.
“They thought my first punt was a planned fake, but it just too high,” Polite said. “So, they played a regular defense on it, and I just tried to put them back, but it was my team. It was a great effort by Ryetavious Sanders to go get the ball on the one.”
On the Bucs next drive, Mainland’s offense came alive. Houston and company drove down the field, and he connected with C.J. Wilson for an 18-yard touchdown pass. With under 1:30 left in the first half, back on their 25-yard line, Houston scrambled and hit Johnny Barkley for a 75-yard touchdown pass to go up 15-0.
Out of the halftime break, the Bucs drive back down FPC’s field, and Adrian Killins finished the drive on an 11-yard touchdown run.
Not going away quietly, the Bulldogs responded with a touchdown of their own, late in the third quarter. On Mainland’s next drive, Demaurez Bellamy received a pass from Houston and collided with and appeared to have knocked FPC’s Ryan Dean out. The game was momentarily stopped, and Dean was carried off on a stretcher into an ambulance.
As play resumed, the Bulldogs used a string of penalties to get on Mainland’s two-yard line, but they were unable to punch it in, so they settled for a field goal. Then, Houston happened.
He took the snap at FPC’s 43-yard line, ran to the right, looking for receivers, turned back around and dashed to the left sideline, breaking tackles, then he slipped through the brunt of FPC’s defense and came out running toward the right side of the end zone increase Mainland’s lead to 28-10.
“I haven’t had a rushing touchdown all season, so I didn’t want to go down,” he said. “But, I just read the defenses and play off of them. I saw and took the crease, and they thought I was going out of bounds, but I just cut back across the field and scored.”
“I’ve seen that so many times in practice, I just said, ‘Here he goes,’” coach Scott Wilson said. “He’s so special about that, and he has a lot of faith in the guys blocking for him. That vision is unbelievable, and he’s got a good set of wheels, which people don’t realize. He gains so much ground with his strides; that’s why I call him ‘The Rocket.’”
After forcing a final punt, Mainland got the ball again, and Houston hit Brant Williams in stride for a 28-yard touchdown.
“We came out very slow; if we would’ve played a better team, we probably would’ve come out with an ‘L,’” said Houston about his team’s performance. “We have to keep our heads up, and we can’t get complacent on offense.
“It’s a win, and I think it’s a good thing to see that, if you don’t go into a game fully focused and clicking on all cylinders, momentum can do anything,” Wilson added. “This helped to humble our kids, and I’ll tell you one thing: I guarantee you, at practice next week, not by coaches, will be absolutely fast, full-go and energetic.”
Mainland will play Pine Ridge next at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 18, at Municipal Stadium.