Plant Panthers Football 2011: Year in Review
The bar is always set high for Plant High football, and 2011 presented some unique challenges as the Panthers made a run to the Class 8A state title.
South Tampa Patch takes a look back at the 2011 Plant High football season as the Panthers stormed their way to the Class 8A state championship:
Aug. 26 — MIAMI COLUMBUS 35, PLANT 7: Without a power running back or a Division I recruit at quarterback, many overlooked the Panthers early in 2011. A preseason drubbing at the hands of Miami's Christopher Columbus took them off the radar completely.
Sept. 2 — PLANT 34, JESUIT 20: They bounced back with a win in the regular season opener, rushing for more than 300 yards and five touchdowns. Senior athlete Antonio Crawford leading the way with eight carries for 140 yards and two touchdowns, and junior running back Wes Bullock also scored twice. "We remembered what it was like to have fun playing football this week," said Plant head coach Robert Weiner. "We had fun playing football tonight."
Sept. 9 — PLANT 36, HILLSBOROUGH 6: The Plant run game was stifled a bit, but no problem. Senior quarterback James Few threw three touchdowns, two to senior receiver Austin Aikens, and the Panthers dominated after an early surge by the Terriers.
Sept. 16 — PLANT 12, BERGEN CATHOLIC (NJ) 7: The next week, Plant traveled down to Bradenton to take on Bergen Catholic in the second half of the Florida/New Jersey Challenge at Manatee High. The Panthers spread the ball around to eight different rushers and five different receivers, but it was the defense that answered the bell to preserve the win.
Sept. 30 — PLANT 36, TAMPA BAY TECH 0: The Panthers started to hit their stride by Week 4, smoking the Titans in their homecoming game. The Plant defense held Tech to less than 150 yards of total offense and preserved the shutout. They also picked off tech quarterback Aaron Midthus three times.
Oct. 6 — PLANT 37, WHARTON 19: The Panthers continued their rampage by thrashing the Wildcats. The offensive line and senior full back Maronte Gilbert shoved Wharton off the ball to the tune of more than 250 fushing yards. Few added more than 270 yards and four touchdowns.
Oct. 14 — PLANT 59, BRANDON 21: Plant got all it could handle physically against the Eagles, allowing almost 300 rushing yards to Brandon's two backs and seeing two of its defenders get knocked out of the game. However, the Eagle defense just could not keep pace as Few has his coming out party, going 9 of 15 for 200 yards, three touchdowns and no picks.
Oct. 20 — PLANT 48, ALONSO 6: The Ravens came into Dad's Stadium and were promptly run out. The win clinched the district title for Plant.
Oct. 28 — ARMWOOD 21, PLANT 0: The Panthers finally hit the wall in Week 8, falling to eventual Class 6A state champion Armwood. Plant kept the game very close until a Matt Jones run late in the fourth quarter pushed it out of reach.
Nov. 4 — PLANT 53, BLOOMINGDALE 7: The momentum halt proved to be fleeting as the Panthers filleted the Bulls. Two interceptions, five sacks and seven touchdowns lit the way to the Panthers' sweep of District 6.
Nov. 10 — PLANT 51, ROBINSON 9: The Panthers took on the Knights for control of South Tampa and ran them out of town. Plant dropped 23 points on Robinson in the first quarter and never let up until allowing a garbage-time TD near the end.
Nov. 18 — PLANT 54, ORLANDO BOONE 21: The Panthers opened the first round of the playoffs with a bang. Boone actually led 14-13 in the first quarter, but Plant outscored them 41-7 the rest of the way. Few might have had his best statistical game of the season, going 14-of-22 for 278 yards and, wait for it, six touchdowns.
Nov. 25 — PLANT 49, ORLANDO DR. PHILLIPS 13: The Panthers steamrolled Orlando's Dr. Phillips in the regional semifinals. Bullock led the offense with 15 carries for 130 yards and two touchdowns (one receiving, one rushing). Meanwhile four Panther defenders had double-digit tackles.
Dec. 2 — PLANT 28, EAST LAKE 21: In easily the best game of the year — next to the 8A state final, of course — the Panthers played from behind for much of the regional final. Only an insane final nine minutes of the game, which included two possessions in overtime, sealed the win for Plant.
Dec. 9 — PLANT 26, FLETCHER 7: Plant cruised through the state semifinals. Bullock amassed more than 160 yards rushing, and senior linebacker Mike Tate tallied 19 total tackles. Tate also punched in a touchdown run to make a statement in the victory. "I wasn't sure if we were gonna call that play or not, the whole defense was tired after that long return," said Weiner. "I looked Mike in the eye and asked him if he was ready, and he gave me that Mike Tate smile, so I knew he was."
Dec. 17 — PLANT 31, MIRAMAR 20: A nationally ranked Patriots team awaited Plant in the state championship game. The Panthers did not blink. They took the opening drive all the way down the field for a touchdown and after some defensive adjustments were able to contain the Miramar offense. The win marked Plant's fourth state title in six years and blew apart any comparisons to last year's team.