Making a statement: Bulldogs shut out Matanzas in season opener
Leading up to Flagler Palm Coast’s season-opener against crosstown rival Matanzas, Bulldogs coach Travis Roland’s message to his team was clear.
“He told us that we weren’t going to stop at all,” Bulldogs senior linebacker Tallin Coates said. “We were going to go full-throttle the whole time.”
The opening kickoff set the tone for the rest of the game.
“That’s what we expect every game... . They cannot win if they don’t score. That’s the biggest part.”
FPC's Travis Roland on shutting out Matanzas
The Bulldogs, after winning the coin toss but deferring, surprised the Pirates with an onside kick — and recovered it. Three plays later, junior running back Ty Jenkins outran Matanzas’ defense on a 45-yard dash toward the end zone. Jenkins’ run was the beginning of the Bulldogs’ onslaught on the ground. FPC fired off three more rushing touchdowns in a 28-point first half, including three in the second quarter
The second half started out much like the first: After forcing the Pirates' offense off the field with a quick three-and-out, FPC’s Marc Genis scored his third rushing touchdown of the game on a 5-yard run up the middle. The Bulldogs went with another onside kick and recovered it — again.
“I want to live on the edge,” Roland said. “When you have a great defense, you can depend on them to cover you if those kicks don’t work out… . I trust those guys more than anything, so it’s easy to make a decision like that.”
The Bulldogs’ defense forced its first turnover in the dying moments of the third quarter. Matanzas’ junior quarterback Demontre Neely fumbled the ball on a run, and senior defensive end Nelson Paul, the area’s sack leader in 2017, scooped it up. He charged 20 yards toward the end zone until he was brought down at the 5 by a gang of Pirates.
“I keep telling everybody that we have to learn our formula. We haven’t learned our formula for success yet. I don’t know how many losses it’s going to take, how much blood, sweat and tears it’s going to take. But we’ve got to find our formula to win. We’re a young team, but it’s no excuse.”
Matanzas coach Don Mathews on the Pirates' struggles against the Bulldogs
The Bulldogs followed the fumble with an interception by sophomore cornerback A.J. Smith in the last minute of the fourth quarter. He, too, almost made it to the end zone before he was tackled from behind. On the ensuing drive, freshman quarterback Preston Roberts completed a 5-yard pass to receiver J.T. Dahlberg for the only passing touchdown of the game.
Roland’s goal entering Friday night’s game was to make a statement, to usher in the 2018 season by letting every team know that, in Roland’s second season, the Bulldogs are not a team to take lightly.
“We’re not afraid of anything or anyone. We’re not afraid of any moment,” he said. “We wanted to show that we’re ready to go and we’re going to defend our district title.”