TAMPA — Plant coach Robert Weiner said the week of practices leading to the Panthers’ region quarterfinal game against Orlando Boone was the best week his players have had all season. Plant (9-1-1) followed the week of strong practices with a decisive dismantling of the Braves, 42-3.
“We had our best week of practice of the year. Just amazing, high-energy, great execution practices and it really translated to the game this week,” Weiner said. “It was good for the kids to see that because sometimes they don’t make the connection of between how they practice and how they play.
“It was good to practice the way we did and then come out and play that same way in the playoffs.”
The Panthers’ defense was imposing and took control quickly as Mazzi Wilkins intercepted a pass 45 seconds into the game, returning it 38 yards for a touchdown. Linebacker Maurice Jackson got the ball back for the Panthers on the next drive with the first of his two interceptions. Senior safety and linebacker Bernard Rogers, who had two kick blocks in the Panthers’ win against Alonso on Nov. 1, drew attention from Weiner as the defense held Boone to 136 offensive yards.
The win marked Plant’s ninth straight season with a playoff victory.
“That’s pretty amazing,” Weiner said. “It’s a testament to a lot of great kids for a long period of time and the consistency of our coaches to sustain that level of excellence.”
The Panthers will host Orlando Dr. Phillips on Friday. Dr. Phillips ended Plant’s season last year in the region semifinals. Weiner said he won’t have too much work to do to motivate his players.
“Our next step is the team that knocked us out last year, but we are excited about having them come to our place,” Weiner said. “Honestly, with Boone starting the season 0-6 there were things we had to do as coaches to get our guys motivated for the game.”
“But I don’t think I’ll have to work very hard to get our kids ready. Our kids will be sky-high and ready to go on Friday.”
Longtime friendship sweetens recent success
East Bay seniors Chris Carpentier and Chris Greene have been friends since elementary school and they’ve been teammates almost as long, starting out in the youth ranks playing for the East Bay Buccaneers.
In fact, Greene, the compact, up-the-gut, pace setter for the Indians’ offense, credits his quarterback and friend with talking him into making the move to tackle football as a youngster. The two accomplished a lot along with their East Bay teammates, moving from back-to-back 4-6 seasons to a seven-win regular season, the first district title in 40 years and Friday, the school’s first playoff win.
The duo each provided a pair of rushing touchdowns as the Indians put up 27 unanswered second-half points to top Gaither, 34-14.
“I was talking to Chris before the Durant game to end the regular season,” Carpentier said. “I looked at him and told him, ‘We aren’t anywhere near ready to stop playing together.’ ”
Armwood D to get second look at Jefferson’s Porter
Armwood (11-0) made the most of a solid second half as the Hawks toppled then-undefeated Jefferson, 28-9, in late September. Talvin Bailey got the Hawks going after a slow start with a 45-yard touchdown reception late in the second quarter, then took the second-half opening kickoff 95 yards for the eventual deciding score.
The Hawks did a pretty good job containing the Dragons talented quarterback, Deondre Porter, holding the mobile runner and strong-armed senior to 200 yards of total offense.
“They have a phenomenal quarterback and he is going to get a lot of our attention,” Hawks coach Sean Callahan said of Porter. “He’s got talented receivers and they are going to get plenty of attention as well.”
Porter has 43 touchdowns on the season (28 passing, 15 rushing), including four scores in the Friday’s 25-17 win against Largo.
Chris Greene, East Bay — The Indians’ workhorse turned it on in the second half — rushing for 135 yards — in East Bay’s first playoff victory.
Jordan Griffin, Armwood — The junior linebacker set a single-season record for tackles last season and hasn’t slowed down this season, adding to his team-leading total with 12 tackles in Friday’s 31-19 win over Venice. Griffin has 102 tackles on the season and also added three pass deflections Friday.
Trevor Laurent, Armwood — The Hawks’ playmaker had 41 yards receiving in the second half, while adding a rushing touchdown and icing the game with a 54-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
Deondre Porter, Jefferson — The Dragons quarterback tallied 374 total yards and rushed for four touchdowns as Jefferson scored 19 unanswered points to top Largo, 25-17.
Mazzi Wilkins and Maurice Jackson, Plant — The Panthers’ defense led to an easy win as Wilkins started the scoring with a 38-yard interception return for a touchdown and Jackson added a score with a 41-yard pick-six in the second quarter.