TAMPA — His team huddled inside Plant’s football field house with an opportunity to seal the program’s seventh straight district title under the bright lights of Dad’s Stadium on Thursday night, Plant coach Robert Weiner told his players the real lights hadn’t come on yet.
“The lights only really come on during playoff time,” Weiner said. “And that’s when we’re at our best.”
And in Thursday’s Class 8A-6 district contest against Alonso, the Panthers made the postseason official, overwhelming the Ravens at home 48-6 for their 20th straight district win and another district crown.
Plant (7-0, 2-0) took advantage of four Alonso turnovers, scoring the game’s final 34 points.
Seven players found the end zone for the Panthers. Quarterback James Few threw for 314 yards and two second-half touchdowns on 17-for-21 passing and running back Wesley Bullock tallied 154 offensive yards (83 rushing, 71 receiving), including a 33-yard touchdown run that started the scoring.
“We have a lot of options,” Weiner said. “We really like to spread the ball around and use all of our options. We think that gives us the best chance. We’ve got a 120-yard field and 53 yards wide and we want teams to defend the whole thing. Our kids did a good job tonight of working inside and outside and with different personnel.”
It marked Alonso’s seventh straight loss to Plant.
“Plant’s been the one you measure yourself up to, and we’re obviously not there yet, but we will be,” Alonso coach Brian Emanuel said. “We’re a lot better than we have been, but we’re not there yet.”
The game turned in the first half. With Alonso trailing 21-7 and driving with 2:35 left in the second quarter, the Ravens fumbled the ball away at midfield. Few immediately connected with Austin Aikens for a 47-yard gain and two plays later scored on a 1-yard plunge to make it a two-touchdown game before the half.
The Ravens (5-2, 1-1) moved the ball on Plant, especially on special teams, where Eddie Castillo had kickoff returns of 58 and 49 yards. But Alonso fumbled three times and was intercepted once .
Alonso running back Brandon Holloway had 130 offensive yards, including the Ravens’ only touchdown on a 65-yard pass play.
“Only on one play did they break it the whole way,” Weiner said. “The four or five other big plays that they had in the game, because we didn’t stop hustling, we were able to get a stop in the red zone and stop them from scoring. That’s really the trademark of our defense.”