Game of the week matchup: Plant vs. Armwood
AT STAKE PLANT: The Panthers want to prove they've moved on from the regular-season opening loss to Tampa Bay Tech. They'd also like to prove they can beat Armwood in a regular season setting. The last two times Plant has beaten Armwood was in the Class 4A Regional Finals in 2006 and 2008. Both times, the Panthers went on to win state titles. ARMWOOD: Coach Sean Callahan doesn't like to use the 'R' word when it comes to the Panthers, but that's what this game boils down to for the Hawks: revenge. The last time these two teams met the Panthers ended Armwood's season, and you can bet the Hawks are looking for payback. KEY STATPLANT: In three games this season, Plant's defense has collected 45 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, averaging 15 a game. Broken down, it's 31 tackles for a loss and 14 sacks. Not bad for a unit that lost it's entire starting defensive line from the state championship team. ARMWOOD: The Hawks' home dominance has been well-documented. Armwood has a 43-game on-field winning streak at Lyle Flagg Field, a streak that's nearly seven years old. KEEP AN EYE ON PLANT: Outside linebacker Josh Varon. The senior leads the team in tackles with 29 and also has two sacks. Varon is usually wherever the ball is. In the Panthers victory against Jefferson, he returned an interception 39 yards for a touchdown. ARMWOOD: A.J. King. The Hawks junior receiver has emerged as a big-time playmaker. He had a school-record 178 receiving yards last week against Wharton (on seven receptions, two of which went for touchdowns) and has 15 catches for 267 yards and three scores over the last two games. KEY MATCHUPS WHEN PLANT HAS THE BALL: When starting quarterback Phillip Ely was sidelined with a stress fracture in his back, the Panthers hit the ground running with T.J. Glover and James Wilder Jr. With Ely back under center, the Panthers can return to the passing scheme that has served them so well. Ely's got plenty of targets, including receivers Allen Sampson and Deandre Queen. Glover and Wilder are also dangerous catching the ball out of the backfield. WHEN ARMWOOD HAS THE BALL: Few teams have as much offensive talent as the Hawks. They have a powerful and explosive running attack with Matt Jones, Rayshied Melvin and Sherman Jessie. Armwood also has a dual-threat quarterback in Josh Grady and a group of emerging receivers, led by Richard Jules and A.J. King. Tampa Bay Tech was able to keep the Hawks in check for the most part two weeks ago with excellent play from its linebackers, so the Panthers need linebacker Mike Mirabella and Co. to cover a lot of ground tonight to have a chance. QUOTABLES: "I've kind of sold it to my kids that way telling them they've got to let it all hang out in this one because we don't get a second shot. And for us, the only times we've beaten them have been in the second shot. It's time for us to see if we can go ahead and get them in the first go round." Plant coach Robert Weiner "Obviously they ended our season last year, so that brings a little hype to our end. We feel we have a little chip on our shoulder at the moment." - Armwood coach Sean Callahan.
Compiled by Adam Adkins and Katherine Smith