Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Cotey: Plant senior quintet pile on the hardware

ORLANDO — DeAndre Queen had no idea who coach Robert Weiner was when he came to Plant High.

But he wasn't sure he liked him.

Every day in practice, Queen had to take on one of the team's biggest, hardest hitters. Every day he got beaten up. That was the price of making varsity as a freshman.

Sometimes it even made him cry.

It's not the last time football has made him cry, but now when he does, it's with a gold medal around his neck.

Friday night — as mist fell from the sky and a good many eyes of the Plant Panthers, the Class 5A state champions after a harrowing 21-14 win over Bradenton Manatee — the affable, quick-talking Queen stood at midfield and struggled for words.

So did Josh Varon, like Queen — and Andre Mondor and Mike Mirabella — a four-year varsity player with three gold medals.

"Awesome," Varon said. "What else can you say?"

Like Queen, Varon was a wide-eyed freshman with no idea what he was walking into.

"Plant was 3-7 when I got here. Plant was nothing back then."

Now it is something.

It may be the best football program in the state.

It will likely open next season nationally ranked for the first time.

It is, well, awesome.

"Maybe one, maybe we could win one (state championship)," Varon said. "Three? Three?"


Had you told Javonte Martin, another of the five seniors with a trio of gold medals, that as a freshman he would be part of history, that he would be a big part of the creation of what would become the state's fastest-rising program, he would have begged you to stop.

"I would have said, 'Man, look here, don't play with my emotions like that. Don't play with me. I'm just a little freshman. Don't mess with my mind.' "

Instead, Weiner and his most excellent coaching staff simply blew Martin's mind.

Four seasons.

Three state championships.

This one is the most impressive of the lot, because when the season started, the Panthers were written off.

Oh, they were going to make the playoffs and win a few postseason games. But moving up from Class 4A, where they won the 2008 title, to Class 5A meant having to beat Lakeland and possibly Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, only the most successful football factories in the state.

And after giving up 49 points and losing to Manatee in a preseason game, then Tampa Bay Tech in the season opener when they blew a 24-point lead, well, folks added those teams to the list of squads Plant probably wouldn't get past in the postseason.

The Panthers, who Friday played about the best first half a team could in a game this big, had to sweat this one out.

Manatee made a 21-0 game a 21-14 nail-biter. It had two chances to win and failed both times. In the final 90 seconds, it threw four passes and missed on them all.

Martin said those final seconds reminded him of the 78-yard drive engineered by quarterback Robert Marve in 2006 to give Plant its first title.

"We weren't nervous," he said. "It was like it was at the beginning of this. It's something we had to do, or we lose. We don't like to lose that last game."

Queen, Martin, Mondor, Mirabella and Varon did that only once.

In four seasons.


"I'm part of a good legacy here, man," Queen said. "We're going to write a book about this, man."

And so far, the chapters they've written have been outstanding.

Cotey: Plant senior quintet pile on the hardware 12/18/09 [Last modified: Friday, December 18, 2009 11:33pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rowdies settle for draw at home


    ST. PETERSBURG — The good news for the Rowdies is that they still haven't lost a game at Al Lang Stadium since late April. The bad news is they had to settle for a 1-1 tie against Ottawa on Saturday night in front of 6,710 sweaty fans.

  2. Bats come to life, but Rays' freefall continues (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG —The six runs seemed like a ton, just the second time the Rays had scored that many in a game during their numbing two-plus-weeks stretch of offensive impotency, and amazingly, the first time at the Trop in nearly two months.

    Lucas Duda connects for a two-run home run in the sixth, getting the Rays within 7-5. A Logan Morrison home run in the ninth made it 7-6, but Tampa Bay couldn’t complete the comeback.
  3. Rays journal: Cesar Puello, who has one major-league game, claimed off waivers

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Looking to add punch to their right-handed lineup, the Rays claimed OF Cesar Puello off waivers Saturday from the Angels.

  4. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Saturday's Rays-Mariners game

    The Heater

    SS Adeiny Hechavarria doesn't always look like he's going hard, but he showed impressive reactions Saturday in reversing field to catch a ball that clanked off the catwalk then firing to second to double up Guillermo Heredia on an attempt to tag up.

  5. Bucs journal: Simeon Rice gives master class on sacks to defensive ends


    TAMPA — As the Bucs seek their first 10-sack season from a player since Simeon Rice in 2005, who better to help that cause than Rice himself?

    Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers great Simeon Rice works with defensive end Noah Spence (57) after practice at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017.