Plant Football Gets Past Wharton in Epic Final
The collision course between the Panthers and Wildcats was inevitable – and it was massive.
An official rivalry was hatched Sunday as the Plant Panthers looked across the field at a Wharton team they'd already faced in a close game at the tournament. Plant and Wharton now reside in the same district so they will play each other in real football every year for the foreseeable future.
If the 7-on-7s are any indication, it should be a nice, new rivalry.
The fireworks started early in Sunday's final. Wharton marched right down the field on their opening possession and scored on a catch by Nyere Thompson. Plant made it to the goal line and converted on a fourth and goal with a Dereck Mann catch. Wharton scored on their next possession and Plant answered with another Dereck Mann touchdown. Veron Hargreaves made a great catch to set up Wharton's next score, while Plant's Antonio Crawford set up a Wesley Bullock touchdown.
The only thing that slowed either offense was Plant missing two extra points and Wharton missing one. The score was 20-19 at the end of the first half.
Bullock again struck from short distance to start the second half and make it 26-20. Hargreaves came back and scored on a long touchdown to tie it at 26.
It was an "anything you can do, I can do better" matchup as both teams showed their offensive prowess and playmaking ability.
Junior Paris Bostic scored on a short pass set up by yet another Derick Mann reception.
Then the first break in serve happened.
Wharton got the ball and junior Dakota Velazquez picked it off and ran it back. Plant scored on a catch from Bostic to make it 40-26, and it looked just about over.
Wharton clawed back in it with another score from Hargreaves and a defensive stop at the goal line. Then the Wildcats scored on a Jaylan Dinard catch and got the two-point conversion from Nyere Thompson to tie the game at 40.
Plant got three tries before time ran out and they went into overtime.
This tournament's overtime is much like that of college where each team gets one set of downs to try and score from a certain distance from the goal line. Each team gets a try and they can go for a one- or two-point conversion.
Now, this was a double-elimination tournament. Plant was undefeated going in and Wharton had one loss, so Wharton could not win it outright. They had to win this game to play another game to decide the champion.
Plant came out and scored again with Derreck Mann, and missed the extra point. Wharton scored right back with Darius Page and they, too, missed the extra point. Rather, senior Antonio Crawford made a sick play, flying all the way to the corner of the end zone to break up a pass.
Time ran out in overtime with the score 46-46.
Wharton took the first possession in the second overtime and scored on a leaping catch from Vernon Hargreaves. They rolled the dice and went for a two-point conversion from the 10-yard line instead of a one point from the five and they got it.
This put the pressure on Plant to score and get the two.
Plant got the score on yet another Mann touchdown. Mann exploited the middle of the field and capitalized on all the attention Aikens was getting. However, they came up short on the two-point conversion and lost 54-52.
There was a 10-minute break and they jumped right back into what would be the deciding game.
Wharton scored first on a Britton Lewis grab but they missed the point-after. Plant got their touchdown, again from Mann, and got their extra point.
The Plant defense shut Wharton down on their next possession and took a 14-6 lead on a touchdown reception by Avery Jordan. Wharton answered with Hargreaves in the back of the end zone and got the two-point conversion to tie it.
Plant got the ball back and completed a short pass to KJ Walker, who turned the corner and ran all the way in for the touchdown. Wharton got it back, moved the ball to the goal line and faced a fourth down when Nyere Thompson caught a touchdown, but they missed the two-point conversion: 21-20 Plant.
Austin Aiken who had been quietly drawing coverage away from other teammates showed up in a big way, grabbing a high throw while streaking across the back of the end zone.
Plant was leading 27-20 with time winding down and they went for the kill shot: the two-point conversion to put the game out of reach. An illegal snap moved them back five yards to add to the suspense of what could be the last significant play of the game. Aaron Banks dropped back and found KJ Walker for the two-pointer that locked in the game 29-20. Wharton still had a few seconds but no means to score nine points.
The Panthers did it again. They continue to take out their frustration on opponents for getting defeated in the state playoffs. The 7-on-7s will continue throughout the summer, but the Panthers have made their point; they want another title.