Both games take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10, with FPC hosting Orlando Boone and Matanzas traveling to Miami Northwestern Senior High School.
Bulldogs return to postseason for first time since 2014
When junior defensive back Dennis Shorter first transferred to Flagler Palm Coast High School, his new teammates, who hadn’t been to the postseason in three years, asked Shorter what the experience was like.
Shorter came to FPC following two years on a star-studded Mainland team that advanced to the third round of the playoffs each year.
“It’s loud,” Shorter remembered telling his teammates. “You’re going to see more people than you’ve seen in the playoffs because they didn’t think you’d make it.”
Following the first undefeated season in school history, the No. 3 seed Bulldogs (9-0) will host No. 6 seed Orlando Boone (7-2) at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10, for the opening round of the playoffs for Class 8A.
Boone’s offense could potentially pose problems for one of the area’s best defenses. The Braves, which run an option offense similar to Georgia Tech’s triple option, are averaging almost 28 points per game.
“They’re a tough team, tough offense,” Shorter said. “You’ve got to play assignment ball because big plays can happen at any time.”
FPC coach Travis Roland said having the opportunity to play the opening round on the Bulldogs’ home field will be an added advantage.
“You don’t have to travel. You get to do your same normal routine,” he said. “When you get on the bus, you see traffic. Kids get kind of jittery and their minds running. We’ll be here, so we don’t have to worry about the whole travel aspect. Our schedule stays the same.”
As for the Bulldogs, they’ve won won a total of seven games over the past two years and hadn’t reached the postseason since 2014. Roland, who left his position as Mainland’s defensive coordinator to become the Bulldogs’ head coach, said being a part of the turn-around has been a rewarding process.
“It’s definitely gratifying to know that you’re a part of something, but it’s bigger than me,” Roland said. “If I didn’t have the help I have with these coaches, we wouldn’t be where we’re at. And the kids have put in a ton of work to get to this point. They deserve a lot of the credit because they bought into what we’re selling them.”
But is program history still on his mind?
“None of that matters now,” he said. “We’ve got to be hungrier. We’ve got to want more. Going 9-0, we’re happy with, but you want more. You want to know how far you can take it.”
Pirates gear up for battle with powerhouse Miami Northwestern
Pirates senior linebacker Tylee Austin hasn’t been to the playoffs since his freshman year. Austin was a standout defender for crosstown rival Flagler Palm Coast before transferring to Matanzas after his junior year. He wasn’t on the team when the Pirates advanced to the playoffs last season. He almost forgot what the feeling of being in the postseason is like.
“It just feels amazing, man,” Austin said. “I didn’t really think I’d ever see the playoffs again. But, we’re here. The hard work paid off.”
After dropping the final game of the regular season 37-28 to Pedro Menendez on Nov. 3, the Pirates (6-3) advanced to the postseason for the second-straight year after they were given the eighth seed. The Pirates will travel to Miami to face No. 1 seed Northwestern (7-2) at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10, at Miami Northwestern Senior High School.
The Bulls, the No. 2-ranked team in all of Class 6A ball, are five-time state champions and two-time state runner ups.
Settling into the game quickly will be the first step toward an upset, Matanzas coach Robert Ripley said.
“It’s going to be about surviving the first quarter and having it still be a football game,” Ripley said. “They won’t be overwhelmed by the 5,000 people or being in the middle of Miami or having all of the pieces of the puzzle that are kind of out of their control.”
Pirates captain and Navy commit Devin Mathews added that focusing on the game plan instead of the opposition will help the team calm down.
“No one has a record anymore. We all have seeds, but they’re 0-0 just like we are,” he said. “They’re teenagers just like us. They put their pants on the same way we do. We’ve just got to focus on our game plan and play the way we play. We can’t let them dictate how we play our game.”
Defense, the strength of the team, will be key for the Pirates, but scoring points — against a team that surrenders 6.22 points per game — is a must.
Mathews, who could potentially be playing in his last high school game on Friday, will try his best to make that happen.
“Every time I touch the ball, I’m going to try to put it in the end zone,” he said. “Every time I’m on defense, I’m going to try to make a big play. I mean, if they don’t score, they don’t win.”