The 5-foot-10, 191-pound junior linebacker led the Volusia/Flagler area with 137 total tackles, 77 of which were solo stops.
PALM COAST — Flagler Palm Coast has started a Defensive Player of the Year dynasty.
Following the two-year reign of pass-rusher Nelson Paul, now a freshman at SMU, there is another Bulldog who could potentially go back-to-back — linebacker Malakai Grant.
The 5-foot-10, 191-pound junior linebacker led the Volusia/Flagler area with 137 total tackles, 77 of which were solo stops. He added a team-high 28 tackles for loss, seven sacks, four forced fumbles, two pass breakups and an interception in helping the Bulldogs (8-3) earn a Region 1-8A wild card.
FPC head coach Travis Roland says one trait has stuck with Grant dating all the way back to his Pop Warner days — relentlessness.
“When he got here as a freshman, he grasped both sides of the ball right away,” Roland said. “You saw a different kind of understanding when he was on defense.
“Productivity is huge for him. He’s always around the football and piling the stat sheet up.”
It’s one thing to simply fill up the box score; it’s quite another to make a huge impact in important games, like the way Grant performed in a crucial district encounter at Spruce Creek in September.
With the Bulldogs set to go down two scores before halftime, Grant burst through a gap at the 1-yard line, meeting Offensive Player of the Year Marvin Scott III in the hole. He caused a fumble, and recovered it, to keep the deficit at 20-14.
"I knew one of the gaps he was going to try would be open,” said Grant, who ended the night with 20 tackles and set up the go-ahead touchdown with a third-quarter interception. “It sparked a fire in us to make us want to go harder, come back and beat them.”
To this point, Grant’s on-field success has yet to translate into college offers. Roland thinks that will change, particularly after speaking to coaches from South Florida and Troy in the open recruiting window over the last month.
That will be on Grant’s mind over the summer, with intentions of attending camps anywhere and everywhere. However, when the fall comes around again, there’s only one goal worth focusing on.
Despite winning 24 games the last three seasons, FPC has not advanced beyond the opening round of the playoffs in Roland’s tenure, bowing out to Orlando Boone, Winter Park and state runner-up Apopka.
Grant, one of three starting linebackers projected to return next fall, sets out to change all that.
“I want to finish out with a ring, to get a ring with all my boys that I’ve been growing up with,” he said. “I want to finally say that we did it for FPC, and we did it for us.”