TAMPA — Cannons fired from the other end of the stadium as Roberto Aguayo's 50-yard field goal sailed through the uprights early in the third quarter of the Bucs' game Wednesday. Young Jackson French was startled by the noise.
Give him a break. It was his first Bucs game, and it was the team's first points of the night against the Redskins.
"What do you say?" his dad, Jack, asked with excitement.
Jackson didn't know what to say. He just pointed to the Bucs logo on his T-shirt and brushed a few strands of his wet hair from his forehead. Jackson, 4, and his dad made the trip through the pouring rain from Brooksville to attend the Bucs' final preseason game of the year, the one in which all the regulars sat out, the one that was moved from Thursday night to Wednesday because of bad weather from what became Hurricane Hermine.
The Frenches were among the 9,457 fans — as counted through the turnstiles by the Tampa Sports Authority — who ignored the weather to attend. (The announced crowd of 42,996 was based on total tickets distributed.)
"Oh, yeah, I watch the weather," Jack French said, "but I wasn't going to disappoint the boy."
Besides, the rain gradually lessened after kickoff to a light drizzle during the second half.
"We're having fun," said Jamie Chauncey, who attended the game with her husband, Dusty.
The two made the ride from Inverness, first stopping at Walmart for a pair of $4 red ponchos.
Ponchos were the outerwear of choice for fans. Some were clear. Others were yellow. Some fans came dressed in rain slickers or waterproof hunting gear. Others wore Bucs jerseys and ball caps.
Donnie Howard wore red shorts, Crocs and a clear poncho. He left his Jameis Winston jersey and favorite Bucs cap at home so they wouldn't get ruined.
Donnie and his wife, Amanda, live a few blocks from Raymond James Stadium. They made the five-minute walk, arriving outside the stadium a few minutes before kickoff and purchased two tickets in the south end zone for $20.
"It's actually better than I thought it would be," Donnie said. "I was expecting to get drenched, but this isn't too bad. I might take off the poncho shortly."
What brought them out of the comfort of their home into a night like that? Easy. "The Bucs," Donnie said. "It's looking kind of sloppy, but I'm spending time with my babes, so that's all that matters."
Football, family and friends. That's what made fans ignore the forecast and turn a blind eye to the weather-radar maps. It's what made them sit through a rainy night to see the home team playing with backups and players soon to be cut slog its way to a 20-13 loss.
It was a date night for the Chaunceys. The tickets were free, so why not? "It got us out of the house," Dusty said.
Not even the threat of severe weather could turn them back.
"We looked at the storm on the radar coming in, and I thought it was going to be just a downpour," Dusty said. "I thought they would cancel the game, but we got here and it was just a light drizzle."
Some wondered why the game was even going to be played as the storm slammed the area late Wednesday afternoon. Streets were flooded. Traffic on the interstates leading to Tampa slowed to a crawl.
The teams warmed up in a heavy rain. Need one word to describe the pregame setting? How about miserable? Still, the fans came.
"It wasn't going to be miserable," Jack French said. "We got to see a football game. It was all good."