Mainland highschool soccer: Travis Roland returns

DAYTONA BEACH – For the first time in more than a decade, Mainland soccer team is under new leadership.

Travis Roland, hired at Flagler Palm Coast last month after a four year run, is in charge of the Bucs and runs the show at his alma mater – the hallmark of the fluorescent yellow hat and all.

“Knowing that I was made out here as a young man, that I was raised here by my mother … it’s a great time to be home,” said Roland.

“It’s a surreal feeling to know these are the same fields, the same walls, and the same things that I walked as a little kid.”

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Roland inherits a program that this fall established itself as the best in the Volusia-Flagler area. It set an 8-2 record, defeated all six local opponents and advanced to the third round of the Class 6A playoffs.

Mainland QB Jonathan Campbell is one of several major returners this season.

A handful of Division I signatories – including TJ Lockley, East Carolina, Laron Davis, Charleston Southern, and Lemondre Joe, Missouri State – are leaving, but the mainland has many athletes.

Quarterback / defender Jonathan Campbell, wide receiver James Randle and defender Isaiah Morrison form the core group of returnees.

In the latest issue of the news journal’s “5 Spring Football Questions” series, we investigate whether the Bucs have what it takes to be contenders for the state championship again.

The mainland started the second week of spring training this week.

Will it be the “same old mainland”?

Mainland is mainland, that’s the saying in the city.

Roland played and won the school’s only title for John Maronto and later worked as a defensive coordinator for his predecessor Scott Wilson. There won’t be any major changes to the tried and true formula, but Roland’s primary goal is to get the Bucs to play with “prey and attitude”.

“We’re still going to be physical, we’re still going to run and we’re going to play action-packed football and, as always, we’re going to have a swag to do that,” said Roland. “That will never change; our children will be our children. There will be a certain flair and a certain attitude.

“It has to be here. We can’t go on the field without prey and attitude. When we get on a football field like this, we’re not mainland … we have to make our opponents not want to play.”

However, the offense could feature more looks under the first year coordinator Snap Wood, who is leaving rival DeLand to join the Bucs staff.

Will Isaiah Gordon Be the Workhorse?

During his freshman year, Isaiah Gordon was the focus of Deltona’s offense, rushing for 831 yards and six touchdowns. But in the two years since moving to the mainland, he’s mostly been a complementary back.

The 6-foot-1,210-pound Gordon carried the ball only 26 times as a junior and rushed for 186 yards and two touchdowns. For comparison, Gregory Mango logged 131 transfers and quarterback Lockley had 88.

Roland is determined to give Gordon, who will be visiting both the Air Force and Marshall in June, most of the first team reps running back.

“I’m ready to get as many tote bags as possible and have a great senior year,” said Gordon. “I kept my mouth and head down and crunched in the weight room every day. I stayed healthy and rested my body for this year.”

Who are the new people?

When Roland took the job on the mainland, at least three FPC players decided to move – outside linebacker Jared “Bird” Lloyd, defenseman KJ Rickerson and quarterback E’Zaiah Shine.

Lloyd (6-3, 225) and Rickerson (6-0, 180) will start immediately because they already know the defensive system. Shine, a 2024 graduate, is likely one for the future.

In addition, the Bucs added defender Jordan Porter, who was part of the Atlantic regional semi-finalist squad as of 2018, the South Carolina Football Coaching Association.

Travis Roland returned to Mainland last month with his signature hat.

Can they dominate the trenches?

The Bucs won in their best title career with pure raw strength and technique. You won’t find anyone as tall as Under Armor’s former All-American Leonard Williams on the defensive, but Morrison has been a consistently prolific starter over the past two seasons.

Morrison, who has been compared by Roland to Florida Atlantic signatory and former News Journal Player of the Year Kevin McCrary, wants to add an element of speed to his arsenal of pass-rushing.

“I used a lot of force last year … I want to use more finesse than force,” said Morrison. “It’s a great honor to talk about Kevin. He’s one of the best defenders to get through here. I hope I can carry on that legacy.”

Most of the Bucs’ offensive line will have to be replaced, although there are high hopes for a promotion from Jake Fessenden (6-4, 275), who can often keep up with Morrison in practice.

Nick Antoine from the mainland during spring soccer practice on Monday.

Who’s the next crop of stars?

In 2020, Randle emerged as a true newbie. He received all-area honors with 31 receptions, 524 yards and nine touchdowns.

The Bucs receiving corps should be a major strength as Nick Antoine and Ajai Harrell are expected to thrive in bigger roles. Roland described Harrell’s athleticism as “incredible”.

Then there’s another potential game breaker in the up and coming LJ McCray. Listed perhaps conservatively at 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, he’s the son of Bethune-Cookman trainer / recruiting coordinator Lawal McCray.

In defense, Roland is looking forward to working with junior cornerback Kalyb Evans (5-8, 175), who measured a laser time of 4.39 seconds in a 40-yard dash at the beginning of spring.

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