TAMPA — The line of headlights up Manhattan Avenue brightened the South Tampa night an hour before kickoff Friday.
In these neighborhoods, the regular-season finale means one thing: Plant and Robinson will meet for bragging rights. And this season the excitement spiked because both teams figure to compete for state titles.
Through three quarters Robinson appeared poised end a five-game series losing streak, but Plant scored 20 unanswered fourth-quarter points to win its sixth straight South Tampa Bowl 40-21.
"In the end, it's two really great football teams," Plant coach Robert Weiner said. "I told (coach) Mike DePue that we'll all get together at the end of December and have a party for South Tampa with two state championships. That's where we want to be."
Panthers running back James Wilder Jr.'s game-high 162 yards on 23 carries were more workmanlike than highlight reel, but the Florida State commit scored three touchdowns.
"I definitely felt it," he said. "We were coming to their homefield. We beat them last year when we were at our homefield, but we knew we had to take over their homefield and make it our house."
The only difference through three quarters was a missed extra point, but the game turned in the fourth when quarterback Phillip Ely led Plant (8-2) on a 64-yard touchdown drive.
Ely converted a pair of clutch third downs on 12-yard completions to Daniel Casselli, then hit Casselli in the corner of the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown.
"The fourth quarter was the game," DePue said. "We went into the fourth quarter winning and we couldn't hold the lead. We came out of the chute real fast. We need to maintain that consistency."
Robinson (8-2) took a quick 14-6 lead thanks to special teams play. After Plant scored first, Marqus Baker returned the ensuing kickoff 65 yards for a touchdown, then recovered the onside kick. J.J. Hubbard's 36-yard run two plays later put Robinson up.