Flagler Palm Coast’s one-two running back punch of Marcus Mitchell and Landin Simmons knocked out Live Oak Suwannee. Now, the Bulldogs will get a tougher test against offensive juggernaut Mainland High.
With 18 FPC players quarantined because of COVID in last season’s opener, the Bulldogs held off Mainland 17-13. When the teams meet again on Thursday, Sept. 1 at Daytona Stadium, the Bulldogs should have a full complement of players, but they won’t be seeing the same Mainland team they faced a year ago.
The Bucs overcame a 15-0 deficit to defeat DeLand 42-29 in their opener on Aug. 26. Receivers James Randle and Ajai Harrell accounted for seven touchdowns receiving, running and throwing.
“I’m very excited to play Mainland, because I didn’t get to play last year. I got quarantined,” said FPC left guard Kobe Murphy. “But like coach (Robert) Paxia says, Mainland’s just another bump in the road for where we want to go.”
The Bulldogs took a giant step with a dominating season-opening performance against Suwannee on Aug. 26. FPC rushed for 373 yards in a 38-10 win.
Mitchell ran for 160 yards and a touchdown and Simmons rushed for 125 yards, including a 47-yard touchdown run.
“Those two guys run hard,” Paxia said. “They have skills to run and catch, and they both did a great job blocking in pass protection as well, which is something that's underrated for a running back.”
Quarterback D.J. Murray added 62 yards with his legs, including an 11-yard scoring run. And Rodney Hill added two touchdown runs of 1 and 11 yards.
“Marcus Mitchell and Landin Simmons, they’re freaking great. We have a great running back corps, and we have a great running backs coach (Josh Russell). He coaches two fantastic varsity running backs.”
— KOBE MURPHY, FPC offensive guard
“Marcus Mitchell and Landin Simmons, they’re freaking great,” Murphy said. “We have a great running back corps, and we have a great running back coach (Josh Russell). He coaches two fantastic varsity running backs.”
Murray added 58 yards passing, completing 4 of 12 attempts with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Gales.
“It was a wet track, so we had a hard time keeping the ball dry,” Paxia said. “Obviously that changes things in the passing game. But I thought D.J. played well. He does a fantastic job of commanding the offense, which is the biggest thing that we ask of the quarterback.”
Hill led the Bulldogs with 17 tackles. Ashton Bracewell added 12 tackles and recovered a fumble that led to FPC’s first touchdown. Benjamin Laurore had an interception.
“We get better on defense every week,” Paxia said. “We are a young crew. They are athletic, and they are growing every week, and that is all that we can ask those guys to do.”
The Bulldogs did struggle getting the snap and hold down on extra point tries. Paxia said the Bulldogs were going to concentrate on special teams in the week leading up the game, but inclement weather changed those plans.
“This is really the first time that we've been live on specials since last season,” Paxia said. “The weather worried us, and we wanted to get as many offensive and defensive snaps in as possible. Now we’ve got it on film, and we can coach it up and get better.”
Bracewell is looking forward to the Mainland game and playing again against former Bulldogs coach Travis Roland. He had an interception, a pass break-up and two sacks against the Bucs last year.
“It’s just another game, honestly,” the senior linebacker said. “But it’s always a big game to go against your ex-head coach.”