TAMPA — Plant played a near-perfect first half and coach Robert Weiner stayed perfect in playoff openers.
Sparked by Mazzi Wilkins’ interception return for a touchdown on the game’s second play from scrimmage, the four-time state champion Panthers scored twice in the first 65 seconds and cruised to a 42-3 Class 8A regional quarterfinal victory Friday night at Dads Stadium.
All scoring came in the first half as Weiner improved to 9-0 in first-round playoff games.
“This last week was the best week of practice we’ve had all year and you see how that translates to the field,” Weiner said. “We came out ready to play.”
Wilkins, a senior defensive back and USF commit, gave Plant (9-1-1) a quick boost by picking off a deflected Logan Smith pass and returning it 38 yards. It was his first career interception and one of two pick-sixes for Plant. On the ensuing series, Maurice Jackson intercepted Calvin Smith at the Boone 28 to set up Colby Brown’s touchdown pass to Austin Hudson on the Panthers’ first play from scrimmage. Jackson had two picks, the final one returned 40 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.
“When I got that interception, it was like, ‘Score,’ ” Wilkins said. “I broke on the route early because I watched film and knew what was happening.”
Plant forced four turnovers by Boone (4-7) and yielded 142 yards. A running clock was used in the final 16 minutes.
“We really haven’t had too many interceptions for touchdowns this year, and to have two of them like lightning bolts, those were two things that really sparked us,” Weiner said.
Patrick Brooks (96 yards on 13 carries) scored three touchdowns, two on runs and a 2-yard pass from Brown (9 for 19, 149 yards).
Boone coach Andy Johnson said, “If (Plant) takes care of the football, they’ve got a shot to go as far as they want to go.”