The Buccaneers prepared for their Week 1 matchup against DeLand with a solid win in the preseason.
After falling behind 10-7 in the first half of their preseason game against Hardee, the Buccaneers came out of the locker room with vigor.
They needed to make some adjustments on defense.
But nearly a minute into the third quarter, cornerback Ra’Mello Dotson, a team leader and one of the defense’s few seniors, made a mistake: The defense was supposed to be in man coverage. He stayed in zone.
The wide receiver he was supposed to be covering blew past him, caught a pass and ran into the end zone for a 67-yard touchdown.
Dotson didn’t let his error get him down, though.
Mainland’s senior quarterback, Taron Keith, connected with Dotson, who also doubles as a receiver, for a 70-yard touchdown at the 11:09-mark in the fourth quarter, which gave the Buccaneers their first lead since the opening period.
Finally, with 2 minutes to play in regulation, Dotson intercepted the Wildcats’ quarterback to, effectively, ice the game. Mainland defeated Hardee 27-17 on the night of Friday, Aug. 16, at Daytona Stadium.
“It was a good experience, but we weren’t supposed to let them score,” Dotson said after the game. “I definitely redeemed myself, though.”
Although Keith figures to be the starter at quarterback this season, it was Father Lopez transfer T.J. Lockley, a junior, who got the start under center on Friday night. He broke free for a 67-yard touchdown run on the second play of the game.
But the Buccaneers’ offense struggled for the remainder of the half, and the defense surrendered a field goal and a touchdown on the ground.
The Wildcats went 10-1 last season.
“We’ve got things to work on, but that’s always the thing with the preseason,” Mainland head coach Scott Wilson said. “It was a good warmup to play against them. [The Wildcats] are so hard nosed. They’re workers and they’re grinders. To play against a team like that, that has heart, that’s a good primer for going into the season.”
He added: “I’m proud of our guys for being down and then coming back to win at the end. They keep fighting.”
Despite not playing in the first half, Keith provided instant energy to the Buccaneers’ offense when he started the second half. His 7-yard scramble into the end zone cut the Wildcats’ lead to 3 with 3 minutes to play in the third period, and followed up his touchdown pass to Dotson with a 47-yard run of his own.
“Taron Keith is special,” Wilson said, “just special.”
The Buccaneers open the 2019 regular season at home against DeLand. The Bulldogs defeated the Buccaneers 30-20 in the season-opener in 2018.
“Last year, they got us,” said Keith, who transferred from DeLand after his freshman season. “But it’s just another game. There’s no pressure.”