Donuts usually come by the dozen. Turnovers apparently come in nines. In an ugly game marred by costly penalties and offensive misfires, the Tampa Bay Tech Titans came away with a pretty win, edging the Plant Panthers 14-7. Over the course of the evening, Plant fumbled the ball twice (both times inside the TBT 10-yard line), threw three interceptions and turned the ball over one downs once. TBT, on the other hand, coughed the ball up four times (all fumbles) and turned the ball over on downs an equal number of times.
TBT began the night by taking the opening kickoff and moving it down the field. However, the Titans elected to forgo a field goal attempt and, instead, turned the ball over on downs at the Plant 8 yard line. Plant’s first possession of the night was uneventful, but a forced fumble on the Titan punt return gave the Panthers new life. The Titans put an end to that life when they forced a fumble on Plant’s first and goal run. Riding the momentum of the take-away, the Titans used a duo of Deons to put the first points on the scoreboard. QB Deon Cain struck first with a 50 yard run and teammate Deon Thompson followed with a 30 yard touchdown run a play later. The extra point attempt failed and TBT had a 6-0 lead.
Plant responded by moving the ball downfield on the strength of runs from Alex Jackson and Tykese Keaton-Baldwin, only to shoot themselves in the foot with a couple of penalties. Following a Plant punt for a touchback, Thompson came out running strong for the Titans, only to be stripped of the ball by Plant senior Chandler Reed at midfield. From there, the two teams traded punts, with Plant losing about ten yards in the exchange. However, an interception by TBT’s safety gave the Titans good field position at the Plant 35 yard line. A 24-yard pass completion from Cain to Donzell Polite set up a 3 yard run off left edge by Thompson. The Titans converted the 2-point conversion to give them a 14-0 lead midway through the 2nd quarter.
A couple of nice runs by Jackson and a couple of completions from Plant QB Colby Brown to classmate Fletcher Barnes gave the Panthers a first-and-goal situation from the Titan 5 yard line. Jackson’s appeared to break the goal line plane with his first down run before getting pushed back and losing control of the ball. No touchdown was awarded, no forward progress was ruled and the Titans ended up with the lose ball. Plant quickly turned the tables on the Titans when it forced a TBT receiver to cough up the ball deep in their own end of the field . This time, the Panthers wasted no time in capitalizing on the turnover, as fullback Kyle Henderson rambled 8 yards up the middle for a touchdown, cutting the TBT lead in half, 14-7.
Plant’s first possession of the second half ended with a punt. TBT’s first possession of the second half ended with a fake punt that came up short of the first down. The Panthers used a third down pass from Brown to Cam Winter and a 20 yard run by Jackson to move the sticks, but then stalled. TBT’s next drive stalled as well and a short Titan punt gave the Panthers good field position at the TBT 35 yard line. The Panthers couldn’t convert on fourth down and turned the ball back over to the Titans. After moving the ball into Plant territory, the Titans returned the favor – turning the ball over on downs – as the game moved into the fourth quarter.
Brown connected with Jordan Reed to get the drive going, but Tajee Fullwood come up with an interception for TBT (the return for a touchdown was negated by a holding penalty during the return). TBT ran some valuable time off the clock before turning the ball over on downs once again, this time at the Plant 27 yard line. A halfback pass from Jackson sailed just beyond the fingertips of a diving Winter and TBT got a huge sack from junior Manzey Velasquez to force another Panther punt. A couple of runs from Thompson and a keeper by Cain on third down gave the Titans a critical first down, as the clock dipped below the 2:00 mark. But, what would the game be without at least one more turnover — from each team.
The Panthers recovered an errant snap at the Titan 20 yard line, giving Plant a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds. A block in the back call on a reverse pushed the ball back to the Titan 40. From there, a hail mary pass on third down fell into the waiting arms of the Titan safety who sealed the win for TBT.
TBT game balls no doubt went out to Cain and Thompson on the offensive side of the ball, while Fullwood and defensive end Fred Russ had strong games, as well. On the Plant side, Jackson’s rushing gains were offset by the two red zone fumbles, while Brown struggled to find a rhythm after setting a Plant school record last week for passing yards in a game. The Titans moved to 4-1 and travel to Steinbrenner next Friday night, while the Panthers fall to 3-1-1 and travel to face district foe Riverview.
– Robert Barnes