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Plant 17, Armwood 7

SEFFNER — Streaks always have an ending, but for Armwood High there couldn't be a more painful one than Friday night's.

On Lyle Flagg Field, where the Hawks football team had beaten 43 consecutive opponents heading into their rivalry game with Plant, the Panthers held their postgame party.

The game might not have drawn the hype of past seasons, when Hillsborough County's two heavyweights stood in each other's way for state championship glory.

But this year's matchup might have done something more — tilting the county's power hier­archy in favor of the Panthers.

Armwood came into the night ranked No. 1 in the state in the Class 4A Associated Press poll and 46th nationally by Rivals.com. But by the end of the night, chants of "Plant, Plant, Plant" echoed through Seffner.

The Panthers beat Armwood, 17-7, the same way the Hawks have bullied opponents — with a stingy defense and grind-it-out offense.

"That's as tough a defense as we've gone up against," Plant coach Robert Weiner said. "We were just that much tougher mentally and physically."

In a game marred by 36 penalties — sometimes stalling the game to a dawdling pace — the Panthers defense held Armwood to just two nonpenalty first downs in the second half.

In the first half, Plant's vaunted offense sputtered, managing just 9 total yards until running back T.J. Glover took a reverse down the Armwood sideline for a 65-yard touchdown run.

That score came after the Panthers stopped Armwood (3-1) on a fourth and goal inside the 1-yard line on the first play of the second quarter.

"I think the reason we won was because of defense," said Plant quarterback Phillip Ely, who was just 6-for-18 for 82 yards in his first full game back from a back injury.

"The offense couldn't get it rolling. It was all defense. We got more comfortable as we went on. Having the D stop them, they gave us every chance."

Plant (3-1) tacked on another score in the third quarter on James Wilder Jr.'s 22-yard touchdown run, a score set up by a 37-yard pass to Glover on the previous play.

"So far this year, every five times T.J. touches the ball, he scores a touchdown," Weiner said. "My goal was to get it to him 20 times before the game started, but it felt like we only ran 20 plays until that last drive."

Glover accounted for 112 yards of total offense (75 rushing, 37 receiving), and Wilder ran for 82 yards on 11 rushes.

The Panthers put constant pressure on quarterback Josh Grady, sacking him four times, including two by linebacker Mike Mirabella. Armwood managed just 5 yards of offense in the third quarter.

Chris Finn's 37-yard field goal made it a two-possession game, and while Armwood pinned Plant on its own 1-yard line with seven minutes remaining, the Panthers ran out the clock on the ground.

"We didn't win the game of field position," Weiner said. "I think we proved to ourselves where we belong. We were knocked down in the beginning of the season (in a loss) against Tampa Bay Tech, in a game where we gave the game away to them. It looked like we started to do it again here. Our team said no, particularly our defense.

"They said no all night long."

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Plant 17, Armwood 7 10/03/09 [Last modified: Saturday, October 3, 2009 1:49am]

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