Flagler Palm Coast rushed for nearly 1,000 yards last year. The Bulldogs are expected to have strong running game again this season, and that starts with the offensive line.
Their coach is new to the program, but Flagler Palm Coast’s line is a veteran group with four seniors. Three of them are returning starters — Kobe Murphy, Jake Blumengarten and Drew Droste.
“All three of those guys have taken another step in their game, which we're really, really excited about,” head coach Robert Paxia said.
The only junior among the starters is right guard Jeremiah Cange, who at 5-foot-8, 250 pounds, may be overlooked by some, but that would be a mistake, said Jordan Heldreth, the Bulldogs’ new offensive coordinator and offensive line coach.
“Jeremiah is a first-year starter, one of the undersized offensive linemen, and he has done a fantastic job this offseason,” Heldreth said. “I’m expecting him to turn some heads, because if you look at him, at first glance you’re not going to be worried about him. But he’s been working his tail off.”
Cange said he compensates for his lack of size by staying low.
“Coach taught me that by staying low, it adds strength,” he said.
Murphy, the left guard, is a three-year starter. Blumengarten and Droste are both second-year starters, but they will be in new positions this season.
Blumengarten, the left tackle last season, takes over for his brother, Nick, at center.
“It’s a lot more fun, because I get a lot more help from my teammates,” he said.
Droste moved from right guard to left tackle, a position he is familiar with.
“I played tackle my freshman and sophomore years, so I know tackle,” the 6-3, 320-pounder said. “This year I’m playing more of a comfortable position.”
“This is the first time me and Jeremiah (Cange) are starting, and during the spring I think we got a lot better. We both got a lot stronger too. Years before I was at guard and Jeremiah was at tackle. So, this year we’re switching positions.”
Wronowski, the right tackle, will be lining up next to Cange.
“This is the first time me and Jeremiah are starting, and during the spring I think we got a lot better,” Wronowski said. “We both got a lot stronger too. Years before I was at guard and Jeremiah was at tackle. So, this year we’re switching positions.”
The Bulldogs are expected to be a running team again this year, but the linemen have worked hard on pass protection.
“Our run game is very strong, but we can pass when have to,” Murphy said. “We focus on both pass protection and run blocking. We’re trying to get strong at both.”
Heldreth would like to see a more balanced offense this year.
“We’re pretty stout up front, so we should be successful in the run game,” he said. “We’re continuing to build our pass protection because pass blocking is technique.”
Heldreth, a graduate of Warner Christian Academy in South Daytona, coached at Lakeland Lake Gibson last year. He was hired by Paxia in the spring of 2020 before Paxia left Lake Gibson for FPC to coach at his alma mater.
Heldreth made the move for similar reasons.
“We have a newborn daughter and we decided to move back closer to family,” he said.
“It’s nice coming in with three seniors. They’ve been excited about this season. And they’re making sure the younger guys are (learning). We focus every day, five-minute periods, working with the freshmen only. And they do a fantastic job co-coaching with me. That way they get a different mindset, not just a player’s mindset.”
— JORDAN HELDRETH
Heldreth was a three-time NAIA All-American lineman at Southeastern University in Lakeland. He’s been coaching since 2018.
“I’m brand new with this group,” he said. “They really took to me well. This is probably one of the faster developing offensive lines I’ve got to experience.”
Droste said Heldreth has helped the group get to the next level.
“He’s probably our best role model right now,” Droste said.
Heldreth said because the players are so experienced, they’re helping him coach the younger guys.
“It’s nice coming in with (four) seniors,” he said. “They’ve been excited about this season. And they’re making sure the younger guys are (learning). We focus every day, five-minute periods, working with the freshmen only. And they do a fantastic job co-coaching with me. That way they get a different mindset, not just a player’s mindset.”
Having a year under their belt has made a big difference, Blumengarten said.
“We’re a lot stronger and a lot more aware and more mature compared to last year,” he said. “Last year, most of us were on varsity for the first time starting. We have a lot more experience now.”