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NEW ORLEANS — For all the talk about John Curtis Christian’s legendary veer offense leading up to Friday’s game against Plant in the Superdome, one thing was clearly overlooked.
The Patriots play defense.
Really, really good defense.
The Patriots set the tone by smacking Plant in the mouth on the Panthers’ first few possessions. And that offense?
It did the rest in a convincing 33-3 victory in the Allstate Sugar Bowl Prep Classic.
It was the first time Plant has allowed more than 30 points since 2009, in a 32-30 season-opening loss to Tampa Bay Tech, and the Panthers’ worst defeat since the Hawks beat Plant 49-0 in coach Robert Weiner’s first season in 2004.
The Patriots (2-0) may be Class 2A in Louisiana, but they looked like an 8A team in the dome, especially defensively.
They were faster and fiercer than the Panthers figured. They held Plant to 194 yards, most of those late, and only 45 yards rushing on 31 carries.
They sacked quarterback Aaron Banks three times.
“Honestly, they were a different team than we saw on film,’’ Weiner said.
“It’s not that you didn’t know the history …but they really were way more outstanding than any game I’ve seen them play this year on film.’’
The Panthers offense was hindered by the absence of FSU commitment Richy Klepal, their 6-foot-5, 295-pound left tackle who suffered a concussion at practice Wednesday and sat out. And leading running back Wesley Bullock left with a sore shin early in the second quarter.
But Plant may have been hurt more by poor field position. Poor blocking and kickoffs that hung in the air resulted in Plant starting on its own 18, 10, 28, 14, 15 on its five first-half possessions.
Plant went three and out on its first two drives, and fumbled the ball away on the fourth play of its third drive.
John Christian Curtis converted all of those into touchdowns, with a 38-yard punt return setting up the first of three touchdowns by running back Sherman Badie.
Badie scored on runs of 3, 7 and 40 (on a fake punt), and Raekwon James added a 5-yard run as the Patriots went into the locker ahead 27-3 at the half.
The Plant coaches weren’t happy with the officiating in the first half. The Panthers were called for eight penalties, and John Curtis wasn’t called for any.
But afterward, Weiner reflected on the poor start.
“They were very good in all three phases of the game,’’ Weiner said. “You can’t give up 21 points in the kicking game and of course get ransacked there early like we did. We just came out and got bad field position right away, and got our backs against the wall.”
With Plant needing a stop to start the second half to have any hope of rallying, the Patriots, ranked No. 6 by USA Today, opened the second half with runs of 16, 26 and 11 yards.
The Panthers, No. 7 in the USA Today poll, held but three plays later Banks was knocked out of the game after a blindside hit by blitzing Patriot cornerback Brandon Porter.
Banks did not return and was replaced by Colby Brown, who threw for 94 yards.
The Patriots veer attack posted 220 yards rushing and another 79 passing.
Plant will now return home to prepare for next week’s game against Jefferson, hoping to bounce back from early-season disappointment the way they have in recent years – by winning out and winning another state championship.
“The good thing for us is we’ve been here before, with a similar score, and we’ve felt the pain of getting our butts kicked a little bit and then being able to come back out and play great football and run it to a state championship,’’ Weiner said. “Maybe (tonight was) a precursor to a good thing.”
In addition to the injuries, linebacker Reeves Rogers was ejected for his hit on punt returner Richard Allen. Rogers hit Allen at full speed, well before the ball was within range of being caught.
He could face an additional suspension from the Florida High School Athletic Association.
Photo courtesy of the Times-Picayune.