As a 16-year-old sophomore, Roberts stepped in to start at QB when the starter was injured in the third game of the season.
For Flagler Palm Coast quarterback Preston Roberts, last season’s loss to Winter Park in the first round of the Class 8A FHSAA State Playoffs was an eye-opener.
Roberts saw frequent action for the Bulldogs last season despite being a freshman. After a scoreless first half, Roberts replaced junior starter Donovan Montoyo at signal caller, and the Bulldogs managed to score their lone touchdown in the third quarter.
The game was somewhat close for a few periods, but Winter Park took control, dominating in a 34-7 victory.
The loss was tough on Roberts, but ultimately, it’s helped him grow as a football player.
“It opened my eyes to 8A football in this state,” said Roberts, who grew up in Dalton, Georgia, and lived in Billings, Montana, before moving to Palm Coast before he started the eighth grade. “I realized what goals I had to reach and what standard I had to play at to be successful.”
Roberts expected to see significant playing time his sophomore season, but Montoyo, a team captain and a senior, was the unquestioned starter. That all changed when Montoyo went down with a knee injury in the second quarter of FPC’s game against Spruce Creek on Sept. 13.
Roberts was thrusted in the limelight, helping the Bulldogs storm back to beat the Hawks 41-20. They didn’t know it at the time, but Montoyo was done for the season. Roberts, who is 16 years old, started the final eight games for the Bulldogs.
Roberts has always been ready to start. He’s always prepared that way. But seeing his mentor and one of his best friends on the team get injured was tough.
“To see a team leader like that go down, it opened my eyes. I had to fill his shoes,” he said.
“Just to see a guy who puts all of his effort, all of his time in for the football team not be able to play is tough.”
Roberts helped lead the Bulldogs to an 8-2 regular season record and FPC’s third-straight playoff berth. The Bulldogs faced Apopka in the first round and were neck-and-neck with the Blue Darters for much of the game. However, Apopka scored 21 points in the final 69 seconds of the third quarter to seize control for good, stunning FPC 42-25.
Roberts hopes to use the Apopka game much like he used the Winter Park game.
“It’s hard to come back after that, but we’ve got to shake it off,” he said. “We’ve got to use it as fuel. We’ve lost in the playoffs in the first round the last three years. Something’s got to change.”
Roberts is still well away from graduating, but he’s always pondered what mark he’s going to leave on this school by the time he leaves — beyond bringing home a state title.
“I want to leave something behind for the guys behind me,” he said. “Donovan taught me how to work hard and to set high standards for myself. I want to leave something behind so the younger guys can be successful.”