TAMPA — Plant’s 21-17 last-minute victory against Armwood in Friday’s Kickoff Classic was the not the usual ho-hum preseason affair with no bearing on much of anything, except maybe who the starting quarterback or linebacker might be to start the regular season.
No sir. Friday’s game at Dads Stadium had a playoff atmosphere.
The stands were sold out with some folks peering in through holes in the surrounding fence. There also was a huge amount of local bragging rights at stake, which is the way its been for more than a decade since Armwood and Plant started gaining high state and national rankings — yet another reason Friday’s game was important.
If Armwood wanted to maintain or raise its 25th spot in the MaxPreps national rankings, it had to win Friday. The loss, in fact, no doubt will affect that ranking and its No. 5 overall rank in the state. Plant, meantime, may rise a little from its No. 15 overall state ranking and raise some eyebrows on the national scene. The Tribune’s top-10 poll might also receive a shakeup. The Trib’s preseason poll had Armwood No. 1 and Plant No. 2, but that could switch after this week’s voting.
Not that any of that was really important to the coaches.
“The great thing is that both teams will get better from this game,” Plant coach Robert Weiner said. “Hopefully neither team suffered any injuries and we came away learning some things.”
One thing is certain: Both teams need to cut down on the penalties. For the night, the teams combined for 29 penalties for 290 yards.
“We definitely have some work to do,” Armwood coach Sean Callahan said. “But with a game like this there are some growing pains. Some mistakes will be made. We definitely know what we have to work on.
“The reality is we’re going to get better from this, and that’s the good news.”
In the end, Plant gathered the preseason bragging rights when Tykese Keaton-Baldwin rushed 20 yards up the middle of the Armwood defense with 42 seconds left in the game for the winning touchdown. Baldwin juked, slid, bulldozed and shook off on Hawk defender after another before diving into the end zone.
“I’ve said it many times that football comes down to toughness and tonight Baldwin and (Plant running back) Patrick Brooks were very, very tough,” Weiner said. “Time and again they showed toughness.”
Brooks, in fact, may have been the toughest of all, rushing 19 times for 152 yards and 3-yard touchdown.
Both teams’ quarterbacks struggled at times. Culpepper finished with five completions for 82 yards and two interceptions (both by Armwood’s Aaron Covington) and Armwood quarterback Noah Johnson also finished with only five completions for 66 yards and three interceptions.
For the official record, Plant is 6-5 against Armwood since 2004 and that record maintains in tact because, just as a reminder, Friday’s game was, after all, a preseason game.
Armwood 0 10 7 0 — 17
Plant 6 0 0 15 — 21
P - Reed 23 pass from Culpepper (kick failed)
A - FG Hofrichter 33
A - Johnson 38 run (Hofrichter kick)
A - Holloway 20 run (Hofrichter kick)
P - Brooks 3 run (Baldwin run)
P - Baldwin 20 run (Houston kick)