Football: Plant 51, Bryant (Ala.) 21
MOBILE, Ala. — Paul Bryant (Ala.) wide receiver Seth Williams was hard to miss from the moment Plant kicked off its regular-season opener in the Mobile Bay Gridiron Challenge on Saturday. And on the third play from scrimmage, the 6-foot-4, four-star recruit made it even harder, scoring on a 73-yard touchdown reception to put the Stampede on the board first.
Bryant spent the rest of the game, though, trying to match what it did in just one play.
Plant's defense ruled the night at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, holding Bryant to just 146 yards of total offense in a 51-21 victory. The Stampede didn't pick up its first first down until the final few minutes of the second quarter.
That, Plant defensive back/wide receiver Whop Philyor said, was exactly the plan.
"We let a man score on us the first play of the game," said Philyor, who was named defensive MVP. "(The mindset was) don't let them get a first down. No more first downs. They can't block us. They can't stick with us, so don't let them do anything else."
And for the rest of the half, the Panthers didn't.
After Williams' big grab, the Stampede recorded just 4 yards of offense until the break and just two first downs, one coming on a Panther penalty. And as Bryant struggled to move the ball, Plant did so with ease.
Quarterback Dane Frantzen, named offensive MVP, completed 13 of 20 passes for 152 yards, all in the first half. He scored on 14- and 1-yard runs, and Judge Culpepper, Philyor and Juwan Burgess added the rest of the first-half scores.
Philyor, who had two more touchdowns in the second half on a 45-yard run and a 30-yard reception, was also in charge of keeping Williams at bay for most of the first half. After his 73-yard reception, Williams didn't pick up a single yard in the first or second quarter, and he was tackled for a loss three times.
"I think when you've got another team who's got a player who's a national player and can really do a lot of things, sometimes your best bet is to put your best guy out there," Plant coach Robert Weiner said of Philyor. "I was really happy with the way we played him early on defensively."
After Philyor's early touchdown in the third quarter — the senior ended the night with 132 yards on nine receptions and 45 yards on the ground — many of Plant's starters started coming out of the game. Bryant found some success moving the ball through the air, and the Stampede was helped, in part, by a pair of Plant fumbles on punts that put Bryant deep in Panther territory. Both times, Williams scored touchdowns on 14- and 15-yard receptions. But by then, Plant's lead was too large for the Stampede to overcome.
While addressing his team after the game, clutching the trophy for which his Panthers fought, Weiner remarked on the feeling of hoisting hardware at a neutral site — something the four-time state champions haven't done since 2011.
It's a feeling, Weiner said, he hopes will come back soon.
"Let's do this same thing," Weiner told his players, "but in our home state."