Last year, Chase Magee kicked a field goal as time expired to give Flagler Palm Coast a 20-17 victory over Ponte Vedra. On Friday, Sept. 29, Magee was kept busy punting the ball as the Sharks throttled the injury-depleted Bulldogs 31-0 on a muddy and rain-soaked Sal Campanella Memorial Stadium field.
“It was a tough night for us,” FPC coach Daniel Fish said. “We’re banged up all over the place. We’re down five defensive linemen now. But we’ve got no excuses. Ponte Vedra is a great football team. They came out and they wanted it more. They were physical, they executed better, and it was their night. It wasn’t our night.”
The Sharks (4-1) scored on their first two possessions and never looked back to win the District 4-4S opener.
“It definitely gives us a leg up,” Ponte Vedra coach Steve Price said. “It’s just like last year. They beat us and it gave them the leg up on the district championship.”
The Bulldogs (2-3) were playing without leading rusher Marcus Mitchell and several other injured players and lost three more players to injuries during the game.
“We lost another (defensive) lineman, and we lost a linebacker and a running back,” Fish said. “It’s unfortunate. With the field conditions and the weather, you know, injuries are going to happen. That’s not an excuse as to why we lost, but you can expect some injuries when you have these type of conditions. Unfortunately, we got it pretty bad.”
Mitchell, who rushed for 671 yards in the Bulldogs’ first four games, has a sore hamstring. The junior was dressed, but FPC’s coaches did not want to take a chance playing him in the mud.
We felt like playing him tonight would put him at risk for the rest of the season, and we just weren't willing to do that.”
— FPC football coach DANIEL FISH on running back Marcus Mitchell
“We felt like playing him tonight would put him at risk for the rest of the season, and we just weren’t willing to do that,” Fish said. “We love these kids and we’re not going to risk their futures or the rest of their season or even their careers to play when they’re not healthy enough to play.”
Price said the Sharks were expecting to see Mitchell, who has averaged about 24 carries a game and 7.3 yards per carry.
“It was surprising that he wasn’t there, but I hope he gets healthy and I hope they have a good season,” Price said.
Fish said Mitchell will be day-to-day heading into FPC’s Oct. 6 game at Eau Gallie, the state’s seventh-ranked team in Class 3S.
“We’ll try to get him some rest. We’ll try to get him some rehab and we’ll see where he’s at,” Fish said. “It hurt not to have him, but I would make the decision 100 times over. It’s just not worth risking him for the rest of the year or for even longer than that.”
Ponte Vedra running back Brian Case ran for two touchdowns, and quarterback Ben Burk threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score. Evan Redmond added a 38-yard field goal.
“They are very well coached and they have a lot of talent,” Fish said. “Our youth showed. We had some guys playing in spots they’re not used to playing. (The Sharks) figured out where we were lacking some of our usual starters, and they took advantage. That’s what good coaches do. They had a good game plan, and they attacked us where we were weak.”
The Bulldogs have five games remaining and still have a chance to earn a playoff berth, Fish said.
“We’re going into the second half the season. We got plenty of games to get it done,” Fish said. “We got plenty of time to learn and get better, and that’s what we’re going to do. We’re not going to hang our heads. We’re just going to go back to the drawing board and get better. We got some big games ahead that can help us gain a lot of ground moving forward.”