This season hasn't played out quite as expected. But here's why the Bulldogs should be a team to fear in these playoffs.
Flagler Palm Coast football’s 2017 and 2018 seasons couldn’t be any more disparate.
The Bulldogs entered head coach Travis Roland’s inaugural season with lots of questions, and for the most part, those questions were answered. The Bulldogs went undefeated in the regular season for the first time in school history and received a No. 3 seed in the playoffs before bowing out to No. 6 seed Orlando Boone in the first round.
This year’s Bulldogs, however, have been somewhat of an enigma.
They’re far more talented than their 2017 counterparts. They’re far and away “better.” But regardless, they suffered three losses during the regular season and are limping into the playoffs with a low seed.
But woe to the teams that have to face these Bulldogs as they fight their way toward postseason glory.
The Bulldogs closed the season with consecutive losses to DeLand (10-3) and Mandarin (39-34). FPC had a bye week during the last week of season, so the team had to wait patiently to see if they’d advance to the playoffs for the second year in a row.
Roland was confidant the team would sneak its way in, but the “perfect storm” was a possibility. The Bulldogs would have been kept out of the playoffs if all three of these scenarios occurred together: Lake Mary beat Winter Park, West Orange beat Ocoee, and Timber Creek beat Hagerty. While West Orange and Timber Creek both won, Winter Park defeated Lake Mary 38-21.
The Bulldogs were granted the No. 7 seed.
“It was quite nerve-wracking,” Roland said of the waiting game. “That would have stunk because this team deserves to be in the playoffs.”
The Bulldogs face No. 2 seed Winter Park for the first round of the Class 8A playoffs at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9, at Winter Park High School. The Wildcats blistered through their schedule this season, winning nine games.
But they won’t be playing a “traditional” seventh seed. It’s rare to see a lower-seeded team that is just as, if not more, talented than a higher-seeded team. But that’s exactly the case with these Bulldogs.
The Wildcats will face a team that’s far deeper, more talented and more experienced than it was a season ago. The Wildcats will have to figure out how to slow down a run game that’s torched opponents to the tune of 2,137 yards and 27 touchdowns and will also have to navigate a defense that features multiple Division I and II prospects, including elite pass rusher Nelson Paul, who leads the area with 18 sacks.
“When you look at our region, everyone is just so talented. Everybody is evenly matched,” Roland said. “I hope Winter Park respects us. Because if they don’t, then it could be an exciting beginning to the game if they don’t come out with some intensity.”
Last year’s 28-13 loss to Orlando Boone still serves as a painful reminder to the Bulldogs’ players and coaching staff.
“It cut really deep,” senior offensive lineman Verneal Henshaw said. “We were looking so far ahead that we weren’t focused on what was right in front of us. But everybody is a lot more focused this year, and I think we’re taking it one game at a time. We’ve just got to go 1-0 this week.”