Plant gets it done: 21-14

Wesley Bullock, Plant 2013 RB
Wesley Bullock, Plant 2013 RB

It may not have been a work of art, but Plant showed it could win without style points, as the Panthers came from behind to grind out a hard-fought 21 – 14 victory over Tampa Bay Tech Friday night.

The visiting Panthers won the toss, elected to receive the opening kickoff and then promptly went three and out on the opening drive of the game. Tampa Bay Tech took over at their own 31 yard line and immediately went to work. After picking up an initial first down, senior Richard Benjamin had a 50-yard touchdown run called back because of a holding penalty. Undeterred, Benjamin continued the drive by picking up 15 more yards. However, Plant was able to hold TBT on a 4th and inches play and force a punt.

Plant’s second possession was worse than their first, as Senior running back Wes Bullock lost the handle on the ball giving the Titans a first down inside the Plant 20 yard line. Benjamin made his TD run count this time by scampering 15 yards to pay dirt. Following a successful extra point, TBT took an early 7 – 0 lead.

On the ensuing possession, Plant moved quickly into TBT territory behind a 40 yard screen pass from Senior quarterback Aaron Banks to sophomore running back Patrick Brooks. The Plant drive stalled and Bank’s fourth down pass into the end zone fell incomplete. TBT took over on their own 25 and moved the ball out to their own 40 yard line behind the running of Benjamin as the first quarter came to a close. The drive stalled and the second quarter began with the two teams trading punts. Benjamin was able to get his team to midfield before turning the running duties over to senior Jamaruz Thompkins, who burst up the middle for a 50-yard touchdown run and a 14 – 0 Titan lead.

Banks and Company then started getting on track. Junior Cam Winter returned the TBT kickoff out to midfield. Banks then hit junior receiver Fletcher Barnes with a 20-yard toss and followed that up with a 25-yard scoring toss to senior Tristan Cooper to put Plant on the board. William Few’s extra point cut the Titan lead in half, 14 – 7.

Inspired by the energy created by the Plant offense, the Panther defense forced TBT into their first three-and-out of the night. Following the fair catch of a Titan punt, Banks went to work. He ran for 6 yards and then completed a short pass to Winter for a first down. A short loss was followed by a 12-yard pass to Barnes. Banks then converted a 4th down QB sneak to the Titan 28. A Bank’s quarterback draw gave the Panthers a first and goal from the Titan 10. Three plays later, Banks rolled right and dropped a screen pass into the waiting hands of Bullock, who put an exclamation point on his scoring run by somersaulting over two TBT defenders into the end zone. Few’s extra point was good, and with the clock running down in the first half, Plant had tied the score 14 – 14. Bank’s touchdown pass came with a heavy price, however, as a late hit forced him to the sidelines with a possible season-ending broken collarbone injury.

Tampa Bay Tech opened the second half strong when sophomore quarterback Deon Cain’s screen pass was taken all the way down to the Plant 5 yard line. The Panther defense rose to the occasion by stopping Benjamin for a loss on second down, sacking Cain on third down and then blocking the TBT field goal attempt on fourth down to keep the score knotted. Junior Colby Brown took over the QB duties for Plant. Brown sandwiched first down completions to senior Paris Bostick and classmate Wes Bullock around a 30-yard run by Bullock to put the ball well into Titan territory. However, a fumbled snap was recovered by TBT on its 35-yard line. The Titans failed to convert their 3rd down conversion when Mitchell Wright sniffed out a Cain screen pass and made the stop well short of the first down marker.

Good field position and a Bullock 40-yard run put the Panthers in the red zone, but the Titan defense stiffened, forcing a Plant field goal attempt that missed the mark. TBT took over at their own 20 yard line and junior Deon Thompson slashed through the Panther defense for 26 yards to end the third quarter.

The two teams traded punts to begin the fourth quarter before Mitchell Wright forced a Cain fumble that put the Panthers in business deep in Titan territory. Bullock followed up a 7-yard run with a 4-yard TD run. Few’s successful extra point put Plant up 21 – 14. An excessive celebration call pushed the ensuing kickoff back 15 yards, but Senior Bryce Valin came up with a big tackle on the kickoff to keep TBT on their own end of the field.

The Panther defense went to work, forcing the Titan’s backwards. TBT was bailed out, however, when their 4th and half-of-Hillsborough County, bad snap, ‘fall on the ball, but then get up and kick it punt’ resulted in a roughing the kicker penalty against Plant. However, the Titans could not take advantage of the extra set of downs and ended up punting. Plant started the next drive on their own 36 yard line and one got the sense that the Plant coaching staff decided to put this game into the hands of their defense. TBT forced a Plant punt and started out their next possession at their own 33. Cain connected on a pair of short completions, survived another forced fumble by Wright and converted a fourth down play with another short completion. However, once in Plant territory, and with the game clock winding down, TBT ran out of downs, giving the Panthers the opportunity to run out the clock and hold on to a 21 – 14 victory.

Plant’s head football coach Robert Weiner acknowledged after the game that Plant had managed to defeat a talented and athletic Tampa Bay Tech team. Realizing that style points may have been non-existent Friday night, Weiner found comfort in the fact that the Panthers had won the game and upped their season record to 3 – 1 in the process. TBT dropped to 3 – 2 on the season, with the two losses coming to Plant and Armwood.

– Bob Barnes