Matanzas beats arch rival for the first time in history.
For their eight-year program history, the Pirates have been known as the "other" team and the ugly step child. While the Flagler Palm Coast and Matanzas game has always been called a rivalry, it had not been any of the sort, other than the fact that they play in the same county. That changed tonight, when the Pirates (1-0) beat the Bulldogs (0-1) 14-7 on Aug. 28, at FPC.
"It's officially a rivalry," coach Robert Ripley said. "For the next 364 days, we're going to be county champs, and it ain't nothing they can do about it. We'll finally be able to shut all these people up, that live in this town, forever that say that this is the only school that plays football, all that nonsense."
For the entire first half of the game, both teams' defenses gave up a few plays but didn't let up. FPC had Matanzas on its heels at the goal line, but the Pirates stuffed them, and they failed to convert a fake field goal.
Matanzas owned the second half of the game, from the opening kickoff. A few plays into the second half, Hunter Turner intercepted a tipped pass from FPC's Dalton Thomas and returned it to five-yard line. Daniel Dillard received a hand-off and fumbled it at the goal line, and, when FPC recovered it and appeared to take it all the way back, refs had blown the whistle.
Later in the third, after both teams traded punts, Mackenzie Wagner, who shares snaps with Ryan Perry, launched a perfect bomb to Philip Moultrie, who caught it in stride in the end zone to put the Pirates up 6-0, a rare lead over their rivals.
"I knew I was going to get it," Moultrie said. "We've been working too hard to lose. They were downing us for a long time; it feels good."
A few minutes later, Wagner called his own number and broke for a big gain and was tackled just inside FPC's red zone. Then, Dillard redeemed himself and broke a few tackles on his way to an 18-yard run.
FPC struggled to answer Matanzas' momentum, except in the last five minutes of the game, when Thomas broke free on the sideline to score the Bulldogs' only touchdown. They would fail to recover the onside kick, and, given a last chance for a potential tie, Thomas' pass was incomplete. The Pirates began their historic win in victory formation, and, after running out the clock, they iced Ripley and attempted to shave his head.
"Dr. (Earl) Johnson had this beautiful idea today to put my hair on the line tonight, but it was one of those things where I believed in our kids, and I knew we were going to win, and I need a haircut anyways," Ripley said.
After a disappointing 2-7 season last year, it was still clear that his players and Pirate Nation believed in him. According to Ripley, this was the culmination of the belief.
"From the administration, to the teachers, to our kids, to the kids who have never played football, to our support personal, to our trainers, to everyone in between, they did their part for this tonight," he added.
The Pirates will have an extra day of rest, when they play Atlantic at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 5, in Port Orange, and the Bulldogs will play Clay at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 4, at FPC.