By Andreas Butler
The high school football season kicked off in thrilling fashion with DeLand surviving Mainland 21-18 at Daytona Stadium last night.
The Bulldogs were opportunistic and able to make just enough plays on both sides of the ball. They also capitalized on their opponents mistakes.
The Buccaneers shot themselves in the foot with penalties and three turnovers. They had two fumbles inside the five-yard line that negated scoring chances.
Mainland almost rallied from 18-point deficit.
The game wasn't decided until the final seconds when DeLand's Alec Merchard intercepted Mainland's Taron Keith in the end zone as time expired.
"I'm proud of our kids. We fought hard and persevered. We survived. Our defense made some key plays and got some key turnovers," said DeLand Head Coach, Steve Allen.
Mainland Head Coach, Scott Wilson echoed, "I'm proud of our kids. We could of hung our heads but we fought back. Just too many mistakes with penalties. We also had two fumbles around the goal line which hurt us from scoring."
Cameron Miller caught two touchdown passes from Jayden Nirchl in the second quarter and Keyonta Alexander added a rushing score for the Bulldogs. Keyonta ran for an eight-yard score and threw a 59-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Lockley for Mainland.
Next week, DeLand travels to Jacksonville to face Class 8A state champion Mustangs at Jacksonville Mandarin. The Bulldogs lost to the Mustangs twice last year including in the first round of the playoffs. The teams were in the same district the past few seasons.
Mainland travels to Columbus, Ohio to play Bishop Sycamore of Columbus, Ohio in the Freedom Bowl.