Plant High's recent era of football domination — five state championship games in the past six seasons — features a powerful quarterback lineage.
Robert Marve, Aaron Murray, Phillip Ely … James Few?
Yes, he belongs.
"I never tried to follow in anyone's footsteps,'' said James Few, the Panthers' senior quarterback. "Basically, I just wanted to be myself.''
That has been quite enough.
Few, in his first and only season as Plant's starter, has guided the Panthers (13-1) into the Class 8A state championship game against Miramar (13-0) on Saturday night at Orlando's Citrus Bowl
"With Robert, Aaron and Phillip, I was very up front with them during their entire process,'' Plant coach Robert Weiner said. "We talked constantly about the things I was proud of, who they were, what they were all about.
"With James, I have very, very, very carefully not
talked about those things at all. That has been put aside for a special time. That will come Saturday night. I personally want to get through the final game, take a deep breath, look at James and know we can both say, 'Wow, that really happened, didn't it?' ''
It really did.
Few's season to remember included 2,462 yards passing, a 66-percent completion mark, 29 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions. There was the state-quarterfinal night at East Lake when Plant was down and almost out. But Few had his Joe Montana moment, zipping in pass completions on the final drive, tossing a touchdown with 28 seconds remaining in regulation, then winning it in overtime.
Before that, though, after his James Cool TD drive, he wrapped his arms around Weiner's eyes on the sideline, then nervously closed his own eyes, making them both listen to the crowd's reaction as his younger brother, Will, converted the tying PAT.
"He had been in the eye of the storm himself, and that moment was nothing,'' Weiner said. "With his brother up there, he was really in the raging tempest. To me, that sequence says it all about James. He's concerned first about others. And he loves his family.''
Weiner remembers the first time he saw Few.
The kid was in diapers.
Weiner and John Few were assistant coaches at Jesuit High School, their alma mater, and of course the whole Tiger staff reveled in the proud papa and his baby boy. That boy became a practice-field fixture at Jesuit.
By the time Weiner had been hired at Plant, bringing John Few over as his defensive coordinator, young James was still hanging around. But now, instead of tossing a ball around with his buddies, he was watching the Plant quarterbacks.
Seventh grade: Few witnessed Marve's magical 15-0 season, the one that started it all.
Eighth grade: Few watched Murray burst onto the scene with a record-breaking season, which ended in the state quarterfinals.
Ninth grade: As Plant's JV quarterback, Few saw Murray suffer what looked to be a year-ending broken leg. Murray, of course, rehabilitated like a madman and returned for the final game, another state championship. Along the way, Ely stepped in to save Plant's season.
Tenth grade: Ely, as a junior, helped Plant to its third state title. Few, available in reserve, had a close-up view.
Eleventh grade: Ely, as a senior, helped Plant to the state title game. Few, again available in reserve, had another close-up view.
Twelfth grade: Few's time at last, although it was a neck-and-neck battle with Aaron Banks until the season opener.
"I think since he was a kid, all he has wanted to be was the quarterback at Plant High School,'' Few's father said. "Now he's it. I couldn't be prouder of the way he has developed, especially since this season has been his only crack (at starting).
"I'm coaching the defense. I'm on the board when he's out there, so I'm not cognizant of what he's doing sometimes. I can only enjoy his success on Saturdays or Sundays, then it's back to work. But down the line, the whole thing will mean a lot. The best part is he was patient and he earned this chance.''
Weiner said he knew there would be the perception of favoritism because of his long-term ties to the Few family. For that reason, Weiner said, the standard probably was raised for James.
"We would never cheat a player out of an opportunity and James, most of all, knew that I owed it to him to do it that way,'' Weiner said. "He didn't want to be on the field unless he earned it.
"James has ability, sure. But he won this job and had this kind of season because of his leadership. The way the other kids respond to him is off the charts. There's such a deep respect for him from the players and coaches. He took command of this team and this season.''
And in the process, Few has continued Plant's distinguished lineage at quarterback. He's where he belongs — in the state championship game, playing for a ring.
CLASS 8A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Who: Plant (13-1) vs. Miramar (13-0)
Where: Orlando Citrus Bowl
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
TV: Fox Sports Florida