Behind dynamic special teams and stout defense, FPC starts season 3-0
Only two minutes into the third quarter, the Bulldogs’ Jimmie Robinson stood in his own end zone with the ball in his hands and no way out.
With defenders clinging onto his arms and legs, the senior running back flung the ball in desperation in order to avoid the safety — right into the outstretched arms of a Palatka defensive back.
“I was mad,” FPC defensive back Dennis Shorter said of losing the shutout. “But it was alright. Everybody makes mistakes.”
This mistake, however, didn’t cost them.
In FPC’s first football game in 21 days, the Bulldogs (3-0) toppled Palatka 48-18 at Sal Campanella Memorial Stadium on the night of Friday, Sept. 22.
Although FPC struggled to move the ball at times throughout the night, the Bulldogs’ offense was led by a steady run game. Four different players were able to punch into the end zone on the ground, including the first score of the game — a 5-yard scamper by sophomore running back Marc Genis nearly two minutes into the first quarter.
“I’m proud of these kids, man,” FPC coach Travis Roland said. “They respond to adversity, and they’re just working hard. We’re getting better week by week, and that’s all I can ask for. Who knows how good we can be? I think right now, we’re a mystery, and I like that.”
FPC struggled to move the ball into enemy territory. The Bulldogs’ special teams made up for that.
On FPC’s first possession of the game, Shorter nearly took a 35-yard punt to the house. He returned the ball to Palatka’s 5-yard line, setting up Genis’ touchdown run.
At the 9:48 mark in the second quarter, two-way player Isaiah Stubbs scored on a punt return to give the Bulldogs a 20-0 lead.
“It’s a big part of the game,” Shorter said of the special teams. “It can win a game or it can lose a game. That’s why we’ve gotta be on our P’s and Q’S. We’ve gotta know all our assignments.”
Defensively, it was another stout performance for FPC, despite the two rushing touchdowns it surrendered to the Panthers (1-4) late in the second half.
Facing a short yardage situation, Palatka’s quarterback sat in the pocket scanning the field for an open receiver. Seeing none, the quick-footed signal caller opted to run — until Shorter chased him down from the safety position.
“That’s a special, special football player,” Roland said of Shorter. “When it comes to DBs, Dennis can play everything. Corner, nickel, safety, whatever you want.”
After the game, coaches and players alike were excited at the prospects of starting the year undefeated. FPC began last season with three-straight losses. But with a new year and a new coach, the Bulldogs head to Jacksonville to take on Sandalwood High School on Friday, Sept. 29.
“This win boosted our confidence,” Shorter said. “When we face a good team, when we put our minds to it, ain’t nobody can tell us nothing.”