ARCADIA — Make that three straight victories for DeSoto County after a 35-14 home win over Lemon Bay on Friday.
While addressing the team postgame, DeSoto coach Bumper Hay told his team they have the chance to do something special this season.
Namely, winning a district title.
Last year it was making the playoffs, this year they want the crown and with an unblemished district record, it’s within grasp with four games remaining.
“We’re starting to clean up the mistakes,” Hay said. “We have a lot of sophomores, but at some point you have to say you’re not sophomores anymore. We’re starting to clean up the penalties, bad snaps, mishandled balls. This week I feel like we really played a complete game.”
The Bulldogs (4-2) wanted to come out and set an aggressive tone, which they accomplished, jumping out to a 21-0 lead in the first half.
DeSoto was sparked by an 80-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tony Blanding to Jakeemis Pelham for the first score. Helped by two Lemon Bay interceptions, the Bulldogs scored twice more with a run by Blanding and another pass, this time to William Maybell.
“We did need to come out and set the tone and strike first and strike hard,” Hay said. “We actually threw the ball really well tonight, which is not typical for me, but I knew it was something we had to do because I knew they were gonna be committed to stopping the run.”
Lemon Bay (0-7) got on the board just before the end of the half with a Daniel Baldor rushing touchdown to make it 21-7.
“I thought we found a little bit of a running game that’s been lacking,” Lemon Bay coach Don Southwell said. “Our kids played tough. Any time we got something going, they either countered or we made a mistake that flipped it back around.
“We need to find a way to string more good stuff together.”
The Mantas were able to get their offense going, but had trouble stopping DeSoto from countering.
The Bulldogs came out in the second half and capped their first drive with a touchdown pass from Blanding to receiver Ethan Redden with 8:07 left in the third quarter.
But the Mantas responded with a lengthy drive ending with a 10-yard rushing touchdown from running back Jason Hogan to cut it to 27-14 with 3:15 left in the quarter.
A 30-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown run by Yarzmen Wesley set the Bulldogs up with a 21-point lead that they would hold. DeSoto sealed the game with an athletic one-handed interception from linebacker Christopher Harris.