ABILENE, Texas -- Plant's game against Abilene tonight will be on national television, but the Panthers are still facing a blackout.
On football gamedays here, Abilene High fans wear black all day (Like Plant, the Eagles' colors are black and gold). And already this morning, you could see fans wearing their Abilene T-shirts around town.
So expect to see the stands at Shotwell Stadium filled with black. Around 12:30 p.m. local time, 6 1/2 hours before gametime, the first signs of tailgating -- with a pickup truck pulling up with a grill in the back cab -- were seen in the stadium parking lot.
A photo of Plant running back/defensive end James Wilder Jr. is front and center on the sports page front of the local Abilene Reporter-News (right). The story tells what we already know -- that the Panthers are led by Division I-A recruits like Wilder (FSU), QB Phillip Ely (Alabama) and OT Tony Posada (Michigan).
More interesting to the locals is news that Abilene star running back Herschel Sims, an Oklahoma State commit, is expected to play tonight after missing last week's game with a shoulder injury (We tweeted this Wednesday). the 5-foot-9, 190-pound Sims ran for 2,352 yards and 33 TDs last season in leading Abilene to the Class 5A Division 2 state title.
As for the Panthers, Ely, nursing a lower leg strain, is also expected to play tonight on ESPNU. Abilene coach Steve Warren was impressed with Ely in scouting Plant, so much so that he'd frankly not like to see him tonight.
"He’s a great player," Warren said. "He’s going to Alabama. Heck, Alabama doesn’t recruit you unless you're pretty good. He’s a good player, no question about it.
"If I was (Plant coach Robert Weiner), I’d let him rest definitely and let him get healed up for their playoff run," Warren joked. "There’s no reason for him to come to Abilene other than to get a vacation. You can pass that along. He’s a good player. The kid behind him (Nick Sanders) is a good player too. They don’t drop off all that much."
Warren is also obviously impressed with Wilder: "To play both ways at that level, at the 5A level, is impressive. You don’t see that in Texas very often," he said.
And as for the 6-foot-6, 325-pound Posada?
"I told our media, when you get out to the game Thursday, you’re going to think it’s shady out there," Warren said. "And if is, it’s going to be because that lineman is blocking out the sun. That guy’s like a Sequoia tree he’s so big. We haven’t had a 300-pound lineman in a long time, maybe once in 15 years."
Plant arrived Wednesday night and had a morning walkthrough Thursday at Shotwell Stadium. Some tickets are still available for tonight's game.
Another nugget of interest: Occasionally nationally-televised high school football games receive betting lines. This one is no exception. According to online sportsbook 5dimes.com, Plant is a 7 1/2-point underdog.
-- EDUARDO A. ENCINA (email@example.com)
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