TAMPA – James Wilder Jr. isn’t the only Plant player who could affect tonight’s Class 5A state championship bout against Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas in multiple phases of the game.
Several other Panthers play on both sides of the ball, including receiver/safety Scott Greacen and receiver/cornerback Antonio Crawford, but one of the team’s most dynamic playmakers is cornerback/kick returner Eric Patterson.
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound senior leads an impressive Plant pass defense that has allowed only three 100-yard receivers all season: Gaither WR Carson Baker (100) and the Plant City duo of RB Dazmond Patterson (113) and WR Lamarlin Wiggins (103).
While the Raiders feature a multi-threat rushing attack (Jamal Wilson, Fred Coppet and Dami Ayoola have combined for 1,373 yards and 19 touchdowns), they also have two big-play threats at wideout in Rashad Greene, an FSU commit with 651 yards and 10 touchdowns on 26 receptions, and Phillip Dorsett, a Miami commit who has racked up 654 yards and nine scores on 30 receptions.
Patterson said he will likely match up with the 6-foot-2, 180-pound Greene, while Crawford will be responsible for the 6-foot, 175-pound Dorsett.
“It should be a pretty good matchup,” Patterson said. “It’ll be a big factor if I can take (Greene) out of the game and put him on Patterson Island.”
Patterson Island is, of course, a not-so-subtle homage to the way New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis refers to his spot on the field as Revis Island.
If it wasn’t clear before, let there be no question: Patterson certainly isn’t lacking confidence heading into the game, despite Plant’s unusual status as the underdog against the nation’s No. 3 team, according to Rivals.com.
“I know we’re going to score more points than seven in the first quarter,” Patterson said, referring to the fact that Aquinas has allowed only seven first-quarter points all season.
He was fully aware that he could match that total on the opening kickoff by returning it for a touchdown, as he did against Lakeland last week. Can he repeat that against the Raiders?
“If they kick it to me, I will,” Patterson said, grinning.