The Bucs have won the last two meetings by a combined score of 84-0.
Matanzas head coach Robert Ripley acknowledges that Mainland has been the prep football "bully" for the better part of the decade. The last two seasons, his Pirates started with a combined record of 11-0, only to suffer lopsided first losses at the hands of the mighty Bucs.
And while Mainland enters this season's contest with an uncharacteristic 2-3 record, Ripley doesn't view them any differently.
"I think right now the only difference is they've got a couple losses," Ripley said. "They've played a great schedule. They're extremely talented, but we need to take the fight to them and make it a football game."
In fact, Mainland enter Friday night's battle for first place in District 13-6A with a 31-game winning streak against Volusia/Flagler opponents. The majority of those wins can only be described as blowouts.
That's the challenge awaiting Matanzas (4-2, 2-0) as it travels to Daytona Beach Municipal Stadium for a 7 p.m. kickoff. The Pirates have won four in a row and can take a stranglehold of the district if they can pull the upset.
Mainland's coaches and players know that a district championship, at this point, might be the only way to extend the program's 23-year playoff streak. The Bucs hold a 1-3 record in non-district games, losing to potential title contenders Bartram Trail, Dr. Phillips and Cocoa.
3 THINGS TO KEEP AN EYE ON
Mainland's slot machines
It's been a relatively difficult year for two of the Bucs' top receiving targets. Brian Jenkins and Tank Dell each have battled injuries and missed time, but both are expected to be available on Friday night.
Dell found the end zone for the first time at Cocoa, breaking up a potential shutout with a 21-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter. If the Bucs can find success on underneath routes, it could free D'Marcus Adams and Shawn Daffin to go deep and test the Pirates' outside corners.
Pirates' pass rush
Give full marks to the defensive end duo of Dru Bowens and Jarrett Patton, who have more than capably filled the void left by last season's Defensive Player of the Year, Nick Kubiet.
Bowens and Patton have made life miserable for opposing quarterbacks, combining for 11.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss. In previous seasons, Matanzas could not contain Denzel Houston in the pocket. New starter Richard Kamara has some mobility, so the challenge will be for Matanzas to prevent him from breaking the pocket.
Can the Pirates get a push?
Matanzas needs a breakout game from its offensive line. The Mainland front-seven — featuring Kevon McCrary, James McCloskey, Julio Thompson, Anthony Graham and Demaurez Bellamy — is nothing shy of intimidating.
The past two years, the ground game, Matanzas' bread and butter, has struggled to find any footing against the Bucs. Ryan Thomas has been a pleasant surprise in his first year as the starting quarterback, ranking second in the area with 785 passing yards.
But the Pirates will want to maintain balance, and that starts up front.
Chris Boyle (@ChrisBoyleDBNJ): Mainland 35, Matanzas 10. Overall: 43-12
Zach Dean (@ZachDeanDBNJ): Mainland 38, Matanzas 13. Overall: 44-11
Godwin Kelly (@godwinkelly): Mainland 14, Matanzas 13. Overall: 39-16
IN OTHER ACTION
Flagler Palm Coast (6-0) at Spruce Creek (5-0), 7:30
Easily the game of the week in the Volusia/Flagler area, and one of the more important matchups in the state this week, first place in District 1-8A is on the line. For an in-depth breakdown of this key matchup, please see Battle of the unbeatens.
Picks: Chris — FPC 27-19; Zach — Spruce Creek 28-24; Godwin — FPC 27-24
Deltona (1-4) at Pine Ridge (2-3), 7
Give the Wolves credit for hanging around a long time in a 19-6 defeat to FPC. However, they have not won a game since Aug. 25, also taking losses to Bolles, New Smyrna Beach and Mainland. Tremon Bright has been Deltona's workhorse on offense, rushing for more than 400 yards with four touchdowns. Pine Ridge has faded after a strong start, dropping its last three contests. First-year coach Kenny Pickens pointed to this game being, arguably, the Panthers' most important one of the season, with a goal of reclaiming the top spot in the city.
Picks: Chris — Deltona 29-12; Zach — Deltona 28-7; Godwin — Deltona 21-14
Seabreeze (3-3) at New Smyrna Beach (3-2), 7
Having already established its highest win total since the 2014 season, Seabreeze continues to lean on its experienced defense. Deshaun Hugee broke out in a win over Atlantic, upping his season rushing total over 200 yards and tossing a 26-yard touchdown to Devonta Phillips. NSB will enter in a foul mood after losing a pivotal district game to Matanzas. The Barracudas can ill afford to lose at home. Expect James Bernard to bounce back from a four-interception performance, and for Zazion Hudson and Einaj Carter to get back on track.
Picks: Chris — NSB 45-6; Zach — NSB 42-10; Godwin — NSB 24-17
University (2-2) at Winter Springs (0-5), 7
The Titans nearly secured a running clock in the first half against Oviedo, but squandered a 27-point lead in an eventual 50-49 home defeat. Lorenzo Lingard rushed for 358 yards and four touchdowns in the loss. University enters with a handful of injuries and might be best served resting those players for next week's season-defining, two-game swing against Seminole and Lake Mary. Winter Springs has lost its previous nine games, dating back to Oct. 14, 2016 — a streak that began with a 41-3 blowout at the hands of the Titans.
Picks: Chris — University 56-7; Zach — University 56-14; Godwin — University 70-21
Lake Mary (5-1) at DeLand (1-4), 7
Lake Mary already has four district wins in the bag, although its two toughest games (at University, home against Seminole) loom later this month. Senior dual-threat quarterback Brandon Brown has thrown for 975 yards and eight touchdowns, adding 255 yards and four more scores on the ground. He poses a challenge to a DeLand defense which allowed six touchdowns to Spruce Creek two weeks ago. The Bulldogs enjoyed a bye week and hope to continue to click via the passing game. Dilyn Lemons hit both Damien Nelson and Dionte Marks for long touchdowns in DeLand's last outing.
Picks: Chris — Lake Mary 30-7; Zach — Lake Mary 42-14; Godwin — Lake Mary 28-14
Taylor (5-1) at Hamilton County (0-7), 7
The Wildcats matched their best six-game start in program history, last set in 1988, with a 41-28 homecoming win over Interlachen. Senior running back Jaquvais Williams needs only 23 yards to hit 1,000, and he's rushed for a team-high nine touchdowns. Kameron Hill, a Deltona transfer, has paced the defense with 51 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and one interception. Hamilton County, a Class 1A playoff participant in 2016, has scored a grand total of 38 points through seven games.
Picks: Chris — Taylor 44-20; Zach — Taylor 49-7; Godwin — Taylor 45-27
Cornerstone Charter (0-6) at Father Lopez (2-3), 7
Lopez found a new offensive weapon in junior AJ Jackson. In his first game with the Green Wave, Jackson turned three receptions into 153 yards and three touchdowns. Senior Michael Dormeyer turned in, perhaps, his best start of the season in a comfortable win over Trinity Christian. This should be an opportunity for Father Lopez to keep momentum rolling. Cornerstone has scored only 29 points all season, and lost 38-6 to Warner Christian two weeks ago.
Picks: Chris — Father Lopez 55-13; Zach — Father Lopez 41-10; Godwin — Father Lopez 35-14
Warner Christian (2-3) at Cocoa Beach (3-2), 7
The Eagles have taken it on the chin in three of their past four games, losing to Victory Christian, Taylor and Space Coast by running-clock margins. Marvin Scott is still averaging 10.5 yards per carry despite constantly being the center of defensive attention. Cocoa Beach is 2-0 against Volusia/Flagler opponents already this year. Cole Mitchell (591 rushing yards, 9 TDs) drives the Minutemen offense.
Picks: Chris — Cocoa Beach 38-28; Zach — Cocoa Beach 35-21; Godwin — Cocoa Beach 32-11
Halifax (3-3) at Faith Christian (6-0), 7
With a 59-6 rout of Avant Garde Academy, the Knights set a new program record for wins in a season. Toure Mack ran wild on Monday, and leads the offense with 356 rushing yards. Faith Christian steamrolled both Trinity Christian and Father Lopez earlier this season. As a team, the Lions average 8 yards per carry and 195.2 rushing yards per game with 29 touchdowns.
Picks: Chris — Faith 49-0; Zach — Faith 42-8; Godwin — Faith 40-7
Trinity Christian (0-6) at Seven Rivers Christian (6-2), 7:30 p.m.
Trinity has lost every game by no fewer than 33 points. Making matters worse, the Eagles have scored only two touchdowns in six contests. They'll keep plugging along though, led by mobile quarterback Jacob Mullee (474 rushing yards) and receiver Justin Hill (16 receptions, 145 yards). Seven Rivers Christian rides a four-game winning streak, including shutouts of Gainesville's P.K. Yonge and Winter Garden's Foundation Academy. Junior Brendan Rooks already has 15 rushing touchdowns for the Warriors.
Picks: Chris — Seven Rivers 57-0; Zach — Seven Rivers 40-20; Godwin — Seven Rivers 50-14