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Thursday, Apr 26, 2018
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Home Field Plays Big Role In Plant-Armwood Meetings

TAMPA - It was hard to determine which gave Armwood's offense more fits: the Plant defense or the Plant crowd. Both were equally disruptive in the regular-season opener at Plant's Dad's Stadium on Sept. 5. The Hawks were able to escape with a 9-2 victory, and afterward, Armwood offensive coordinator Chris Taylor predicted the two teams would meet again in the state high school football playoffs. "The crowd was definitely loud, and we couldn't deal with it," Taylor said. "We'll have to find a way to deal with it." Dad's Stadium once again plays host to the Hawks in a Class 4A regional final game Friday. This time, a shot at a state championship is on the line. It's the third consecutive year the teams have met in the regional finals.
Armwood won last year, 36-7, at the Hawks' Lyle Flagg Field. In 2006, Plant defeated Armwood, 38-20, at Dad's Stadium en route to the school's first state championship. Before the regular-season opening loss to Armwood, Plant had won 19 consecutive home games. As the second oldest public high school in Hillsborough County, Plant boasts one of the oldest stadiums, complete with old-school charm. A metal roof covers the bleachers on the home side. Fans on that side are in on the action without a track separating them from the field, like at most county stadiums. Plant coach Robert Weiner gives credit for the intimidating atmosphere to the band, led by director Robert Shoos. "Not only are they loud and create the energy and the pulse of the game, but they're unbelievably good," Weiner said. "[Shoos] knows the game and he loves the game, and he get the kids fired up. That has changed the atmosphere at the games. They're underneath that roof and right on top of us. It's a tough place for opponents." It looked that way for Armwood in the nationally televised season opener. Hawks quarterback Mywan Jackson, one of the county's best this year, looked uncomfortable throughout the game. Playing in a new offensive scheme was partly to blame, but so was the Plant defense, which played a major role in making Jackson's life miserable. The Panthers' defense limited Armwood's offense, which averaged 39 points a game this season, to 119 yards and one touchdown. "I think it's hard to run an offense against us because our defense is good," Weiner said. "Our defense in that first game stepped up and made play after play after play. They played well enough for us to win. "I'd like to think if our defense plays the same way that we've got to like our chances."

Reporter Katherine Smith can be reached at (813) 259-7860.

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