Paris Bostick, Plant 2013 ATH

Instant Classic: Plant beats Armwood in OT

Paris Bostick, Plant 2013 ATH
Paris Bostick, Plant 2013 ATH

Call it an instant classic. Plant pulled out a thrilling 20 – 19 overtime victory of cross-county rival Armwood when Panther senior Reeves Rogers blocked what would have been the game-tying extra point on the last play of the game.

Tied at halftime (3 – 3) and tied again at the end of regulation (13 – 13), Armwood won the overtime coin flip and made the traditional call — electing to go on defense first. A first down fullback dive went nowhere for Plant, but a second down pass from quarterback Aaron Banks found Patrick Brooks inside the 5 yard line and Brooks was able to dive forward and stretch the ball into the end zone before falling out of bounds. It was Banks’ second touchdown pass of the night — two more than the past two years combined. Senior William Few added the extra point and the drama continued.

Armwood begain its possession with a little trickery, but the halfback pass to quarterback Alvin Bailey fell incomplete amidst several Plant defenders. A second down pass from Bailey also missed the mark. But what Bailey was unable to do in the air, he managed to do on the ground, as he picked up 8 big yards on third down with a quarterback draw. Knowing that the Hawks needed a touchdown to tie the game, receiver-turned-quarterback Bailey lofted a pass into the end zone and found quarterback-turned-receiver Darryl Richardson, who used all of his 6 foot 5 inches to haul in the touchdown pass. The extra point was all that stood in the way of yet another tie and a second overtime. But Rogers was ready to go home and ready to go home a winner. The senior linebacker-turned-safety crashed in hard from the right side of the line of scrimmage and blocked the extra point. And in an instant, the game had ended and Plant stood on its home field victorious.

The night began slowly for both teams, as the defenses set the tone early. Plant went three-and-out on its first possession. Armwood was able to move the ball a little on its opening drive, but turned the ball over on downs when Bailey’s bomb on 4th and 2 was broken up by Mazzi Wilkens. Plant took over on its own 37 yard line and moved the ball into Hawk territory behind a series of short runs (from Banks and fellow senior Wesley Bullock), mid-range passes (including a connection to John Rutledge that was good for a first down), and a few costly penalties by the Hawks (twice, Armwood jumped offsides on 4th down, giving Plant a first down on both occasions). The first quarter came to an end with the ball on the Armwood 18. Jordan Reed was able to run the ball down to the 4, but Plant — perhaps wanting to make sure that they were not shut out for a third year in a row — sent the field goal team onto the turf and Few split the uprights with a 21-yarder to give Plant a 3 – 0 lead.

After an exchange of possessions (and a crazy punt play that likely still has Armwood fans talking), the Hawks used a balanced attack to move the ball into Plant territory. But when lineback Hunter Wertz sniffed out a Hawk screen pass on a third and long, Armwood opted for points of their own and tied the game with a 34-yard field goal from senior Nick Feely with just over a minute remaining in the half.

Plant kicked off to start the second half, but forced the Hawks to punt. A short kick gave the Panthers good field position, but Armwood didn’t take long to regain possession. Senior Leon McQuay, III intercepted a long pass from Banks and the Hawks were back in business. This time, the visitors from Seffner were able to make the most of things, as Bailey hooked up with McQuay on a 54-yard TD pass to give the Hawks a 10 – 3 lead.

Starting inside their own 20, the Panthers moved the ball out close to midfield before being forced to punt. The Panther defense forced the Hawks to kick again, but a roughing call gave Armwood new life. A scoring drive at this point might have taken the life out of Plant, but the Panther defense was up to the task and forced a quick punt. On the opening play of the 4th quarter, Senior safety Paris Bostick returned the punt over 50 yards deep into Hawk territory. Only McQuay’s diving tackle kept Bostick from scoring. However, Plant was not able to fully capitalize on the return, settling on a 36-yard field goal from Few to cut the lead to 10 – 6.

Plant dodged a bullet on Armwood’s next possession when a Bailey pass slipped through the fingers of an Armwood receiver that had himself slipped behind the Plant defense. Again, Armwood was forced to punt and Plant took over on its own 35, where they gave up ground before punting the ball back. A Tripp Lawson punt, combined with a penalty, backed the Hawks up deep on their side of the 50. But, after an Eliel Shines sack of Bailey on third down, Feely boomed a nice punt of his own.

The Panthers took over possession on their own 37 yard line with just under 5 minutes in the game. Runs by Wes Bullock and Mitch Wright and a pass from Banks to Tristan Cooper set up an 18-yard touchdown pass from Banks to Wright. Few’s extra point put Plant up 13 – 10 with 2:19 remaining. The Hawks then showed why they went undefeated on the field last year on their way to a state championship. Behind the feet and arm of Bailey and the legs of sophomore running back Caylan Holloway, Armwood moved the ball from one end of the field to the other. With time running down, Bailey fired the ball into the direction of Richardson, who made an amazing one-handed grab inside the Panther 10 yard line. The Panther defense stiffened and Feely knocked home a 21-yard field goal with 23 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game at 13 and set the stage for the overtime drama. And it was a classic. And when Rogers blocked the extra point attempt, it was over in an instant.

The Panthers stay at home next week with a district match up against Bloomingdale.

– Bob Barnes