The Plant Panthers finished unbeaten in the district with a 51 -20 victory over the Bloomindale Bulls behind big plays on the ground (two touchdown runs of 35 yards or more) and in the air (touchdown passes of 51, 70, 30 and 24 yards)
After a scoreless first quarter, senior quarterback Aaron Banks found classmate Wesley Bullock streaking down the middle of the field and hit him in stride with a 51-yard touchdown pass. William Few added the extra point and Plant had a 7 – 0 lead.
Bloomingdale’s ensuing drive stalled quickly and the Bulls were forced to punt. On third down and 8 from their own 30 yard line, Banks hit fellow seniorTristan Cooper with a 70-yard bomb. Few’s kick made it 14 – 0 in favor of Plant.
Bloomingdale got on track on its next drive. Sparked by a 30-yard completion to sophomore receiver Doug Sandberg, the Bulls drove 80 yards, the final 7 coming from senior running back Eugene Baker. Plant’s Mazzi Wilkens blocked the extra point attempt, but Bloomingdale had cut the lead to 14 – 6 with just under 3 minutes remaining in the first half. But that was more than enough time for Plant to score — not once, but twice.
Senior Paris Bostick returned the Bloomingdale kick 35 yards to the Bulls 36 yard line. From their, Banks executed the read-option to perfection and sprinted into the end zone. Few’s extra point gave the Panthers a 21 – 6 lead. Plant then forced a quick three-and-out from the Bulls. A pair of scrambles from Banks set up a 35-yard TD run from Bullock to put Plant ahead 28 – 6 at the half.
Bloomingdale came out in the second half and controlled the ball for the first six minutes. The Bulls drove 80 yards in 13 plays, capped off by a 4th down 8-yard touchdown pass to senior captain Adam Posateri. The two-point conversion was stuffed by Plant’s Reeves Rogers, but the Bulls had once again cut into the Plant lead, trailing now 28 – 12.
Plant’s next drive came to an end when Plant failed to convert on a 4th and 11 from the Bulls’ 31. But, that didn’t keep the Panthers from making another big play – this one coming from the defense. A sack by senior Mitchell Wright resulted in a lateral through the end zone and a safety. A kick out of bounds gave Plant the ball at the Bloomingdale 45 yard line. Bullock gained 20 yards on first down. Banks then lost 5, before finding Cooper on another long scoring strike, this one good from 30 yards out. Few stayed perfect on the night with his extra points and Plant led 37 – 12.
The Bulls put together their second 80-yard scoring drive of the night, as Posateri hauled in his second TD pass of the night, this one from 12 yards out amidst tight coverage, in the early minutes of the 4th quarter. Bloomingdale’s Logan Crouse snuck into the end zone unnoticed to make an easy catch and give the Bulls a successful 2-point conversion.
Patrick Brooks returned the kickoff almost 30 yards and a horse collar penalty put the Panthers in business at the Bloomingdale 31. Short runs from senior running backs James Helms and Sammi Al-saleh set up a 24-yard TD pass from Plant back-up quarterback Kyle Groh to junior Cam Winter. Few converted again to give Plant a 44 – 20 advantage. Groh also showed that he could move the ball on the ground in Plant’s final possession, picking up over 40 yards on a pair of bootlegs before sneaking the ball into the end zone from three yards out in the closing seconds of the game. This time, junior Hunter Anderson added the extra – and final – point to give the Panthers a 51 – 20 final advantage.
Bloomingdale was led on the ground by senior Eugene Baker, while Wes Bullock led the Panthers. Plant ended up the night with over 450 total yards, including 240 on the ground and 230 in the air.
The Panthers finish their regular season next Friday on the road against south-Tampa rival and undefeated Robinson, before beginning the defense of its 8-A State Championship title the following week at home against Orlando Freedom.
– Bob Barnes