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TAMPA -- Plant senior quarterback Phillip Ely sat out of practice again Tuesday evening while rehabbing his injured back, but he hopes to return to the field Wednesday.
As the Panthers ready themselves for the Class 5A state championship game in Orlando on Friday night, Ely and senior backup Nick Sanders are both preparing like they will start against Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas. Ely, who didn't dress out for last week's rout of Lakeland because of the injury, said he was feeling better and was able to participate in individual workouts, albeit not with his team.
"I'm going to try to practice tomorrow, try to see how I feel and then go from there," Ely said.
Plant coach Robert Weiner said Ely has had a few good days of therapy, but the real test will come Wednesday when he tries to test his back. The nature of the injury doesn't affect his ability to throw as much as it does his running. At this point, Ely has done some light jogging but hasn't attempted to see how hard running affects his back.
"If he does play on Friday night, we don't want that to be the first time he's felt this cut or that cut or this movement. I want him to go in with confidence," Weiner said. "If he feels confident, his body responds much better."
Ely, an Alabama commitment who will start classes in January, has remained intricately involved with the game-planning process as the Panthers prepare for the Raiders' stingy defense, and Weiner didn't rule out the possibility that Ely could miss practice and still play Friday night.
"I definitely feel much better at this point than I did last week at this point. There's definitely a better shot at this point," Weiner said. "It was really a matter of last week hoping he just woke up one day and was like, 'OK, I feel good now.'"