When Matanzas football players heard they will be competing in the same district with Flagler Palm Coast for the next two years, their ears perked up, coach Matt Forrest said.
“It’s going to be exciting for sure,” he said. “That game means a lot to the community and fan bases. To have that game have direct playoff implications will be real special.”
The Potato Bowl was going to continue anyway, but now the stakes are higher.
“We put great emphasis on our district games,” Forrest said. “We have three simple goals: win district, win region and win state.”
“It’s going to be exciting for sure. That game means a lot to the community and fan bases. To have that game have direct playoff implications will be real special.”
MATT FORREST, Matanzas football coach
With the FHSAA’s controversial split of metro and suburban schools into separate football classifications, it was likely there would be unforeseen outcomes.
With four separate metro classes, four suburban classes and one rural class, the enrollment span is greater in each class. In the 4S class, where FPC and Matanzas have been placed, school enrollments range from 1,896 to 3,226. Add in Flagler County’s rezoning, and the enrollment difference between the two high schools is smaller than it's ever been.
That doesn’t change the fact that Matanzas has beaten FPC in football just twice in 13 meetings. If the Pirates’ three foes in District 4-4S next season — FPC, Ponte Vedra and Nease — all have larger enrollments than Matanzas, then so be it, Forrest said.
“If you would have asked me last year that we would be in a district with a (Class) 8A school from last year, I wouldn’t have believed you, but it doesn’t matter,” he said. “Once it’s set, it’s set, and at end of day you’ve got to play football.”
Former FPC coach Travis Roland, who is a student of all things high school football, actually rates the 4S class (S for suburban) as the toughest classification in the state — tougher than all of the metro classes, even though the split was implemented because metro schools have dominated the state championships for years from the small private school level to large public schools.
“That class is going to be brutal,” Roland said. “If I had to rank them, I’d rank 4S first, then 3M (M for Metro).
“Any time you change something that’s been the same for a long time, there’s a lot of discomfort. I’m sure it will take some time to work out the kinks. But I think it will work out for the better.”
ROBERT PAXIA, FPC football coach
If FPC or Matanzas advances to the third or fourth round of the playoffs, it would have to go through the Panhandle powers and several large suburban areas. Bradenton, Sarasota, Fort Myers and Naples may not be metro areas, but with school choice they have large population centers on which to draw athletes who want to transfer.
FPC coach Robert Paxia is interested to see what happens. He believes the split was necessary.
“When over 50% of the people are upset, you probably need to re-evaluate what you’re doing,” he said.
Paxia noted that in Class 7A last season, state champ St. Thomas Aquinas of Fort Lauderdale won its semifinal over Gainesville Buchholz with a running clock.
“Buchholz is a very, very good football team, and (St. Thomas) put them on a running clock in the first half in the final four,” Paxia said.
“Hopefully there will be more diversity in the championships. Any time you change something that’s been the same for a long time, there’s a lot of discomfort. I’m sure it will take some time to work out the kinks. But I think it will work out for the better.”