In the days leading up to this year's U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Plant RB/LB James Wilder Jr. didn't even know if a nagging injury would allow him to play in Saturday's game that features some of the top senior high school recruits in the nation.
Still feeling pain from a rib injury he suffered in the Panthers' Class 5A state championship game, Wilder considered sitting out the event, which would be his final game as a high school player.
But come game day, Wilder showed the nation what the Tampa Bay area already knows: The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Florida State recruit is difficult to stop.
In a game with little offense, Wilder put his team on his broad shoulders in the fourth quarter, scoring the winning touchdown on a 3-yard run with 4:14 remaining to give his East team a 13-10 win over the West Saturday afternoon at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
Wilder, who finished the game with 39 rushing yards, had four carries for 26 yards and a 17-yard reception on the winning drive, which capped 13 unanswered points for the East.
"In the first half we were switching off (with different running backs) every drive," Wilder told the Associated Press. "We wanted to get more time out there so we could catch our rhythm. That last drive I got my rhythm and things started happening for our offense with good blocks. I just did my part and ran it in."
Two weeks ago, Wilder was named one of the Times' three all-Suncoast Players of the Year, along with Jefferson QB Quentin Williams and Armwood QB Josh Grady.
Plant teammate QB Phillip Ely, an Alabama recruit, as well as Countryside OL Tyler Moore (Nebraska) and Tarpon Springs OL Zach DeBell (Georgia) also played in the game.
Ely and Moore will reportedly enroll at their schools early for the spring semester this month.
Photo from the Associated Press
-- EDUARDO A. ENCINA (email@example.com; Twitter: @EddieHometeam)