Not much could go right for Flagler Palm Coast in the first half of its contest against district rival Spruce Creek the night of Friday, Sept. 13, at Spruce Creek High School.
The Bulldogs’ defense had a difficult time slowing down the Hawks’ bruising 4-star running back and Nebraska commit, Marvin Scott, who bulldozed his way to over 100 yards rushing on the Hawks first three possessions.
The Bulldogs’ offense struggled to move the ball, as well, and after stopping the Bulldogs’ offense yet again, the Hawks blocked a punt and recovered it in the red zone, setting up a 1-yard touchdown run from Scott to put Spruce Creek up 14-0.
FPC was able to even the score for a short period of time thanks to a fumble recovery for a touchdown by defensive end Altarik Lumpkins and a 35-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Preston Roberts to receiver Tyrique Graham.
However, the Hawks returned the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a score to regain the lead 20-14.
And the worst: In the dying moments of the half, the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback, Donovan Montoyo, went down with what appeared to be a knee injury and did not return to the game.
Roberts, a sophomore, was thrust into the game from that point on.
“You hate to see that happen,” Roberts said of Montoyo’s injury. “During halftime, it was hard to even focus on the game because Donovan and I are so close. In my head, I was thinking, we needed to win for No. 4.”
The Bulldogs took to the field after halftime with a renewed focus — and it showed.
Linebacker Malakai Grant, who also had a sack and a forced fumble, intercepted Spruce Creek's Nick Christiano late in the third quarter. The turnover led to a 6-yard touchdown run from senior tailback Marc Genis. And early in the fourth quarter, for the second time of the night, a snap went over Christiano’s head and was recovered by Lumpkins, who returned it 30 yards for a score to give the Bulldogs a 27-20 lead with 10 minutes to play in regulation.
FPC’s defense, which features 10 new starters, shutout Spruce Creek’s offense in the second half.
“We just had to calm down,” Bulldogs coach Travis Roland said. “It’s a young group still. They can make plays, but at the same time, it took a half to get out of [our slump]. We kept ourselves in the game, went into halftime and made adjustments.”
With the defense finally clicking, it was Genis who finished off the Hawks, rushing for two touchdowns in the final quarter, including a run where he broke through several tackles and carried three defenders into the end zone for a back-breaking touchdown.
Genis thought of one thing as he trucked his way toward the goal line.
“Nobody could stop me but me,” he said. “Simple as that.”
Roberts added: “That dude is a truck. You can’t stop him.”
FPC (3-0) defeated the Hawks 41-20.
A hallmark of this team has been its chemistry — something that has helped the Bulldogs push until the end even in the most difficult circumstances.
“I think this is the closest team I’ve ever played on,” Roberts said. “It’s the closest team FPC’s had in a very long time — maybe ever. And I think that that family bond is what pushes us through games like these.”