ORLANDO — Wharton's first postseason appearance since 2008 ended Friday night in a 35-14 loss to Orlando Dr. Phillips in the Class 8A region quarter-finals.
"It was big. We have a new bunch, first time winning a playoff game with this group. These guys just play hard, mostly sophomore and juniors," said Dr. Phillips head coach Rodney Wells, whose team will visit the Orlando Boone-Plant winner next week.
The Panthers came out quick, catching the Wildcats defense off balance. They scored on 55- and 5-yard touchdown runs by junior Eric Harrell early in the first quarter.
Wharton answered on its ensuing drive with a 5-yard touchdown run from Vernon Hargreaves, set up by a pass from Chase Litton to Deon Sampson for 45 yards.
After four consecutive three and outs, Dr. Phillips' Isaiah Johnson found the end zone on a 7-yard touchdown run, extending the Panthers lead to 21-7 with 2:27 left in the half.
Under pressure, the Wildcats constructed an 80-yard, two-minute drive, finishing it off with a 7-yard touchdown pass from Litton to senior Nyere Thompson to close the Panthers lead to 21-14 heading into halftime.
Dr. Phillips struck first in the second half on a 52-yard run by Deionte Gaines that put the Panthers up by two touchdowns once more.
Hampered by incompletions and penalties, Wharton only converted nine first downs in the second half.
Wharton's Darius Page carried 19 times, four in the second, for only 44 yards.
Gaines scored for Dr. Phillips again after running in from 9 yards out to stretch the lead to 35-14.
Panthers quarterback and Boise State commitment Nick Patti was 8 for 21 for 145 yards on the night.
"They are much better than a 5-5 team. They play physical and have playmakers all over the field. They came in here and did what we thought they were going to do. Compete and play till the end," Wells said.