TAMPA — Largely because Plant throws the ball so darn much, it has — perhaps undeservedly — been called a "finesse team" by some.
But after beating Chamberlain, one of the county's most physical teams, 27-13 in an all-out slugfest Friday night at Dads Stadium, it's a safe bet they have completely rid themselves of that label.
"We," Plant coach Robert Weiner said, "didn't look very finesse tonight."
Plant (7-1, No. 86 in the RivalsHigh 100) didn't just beat Chamberlain (8-1, No. 51), at times they beat them up. Particularly when the Chiefs had the ball.
"They made us look bad on offense," longtime Chamberlain coach Billy Turner said. "They outplayed us …outhit us."
Overshadowed by the team's high-octane offense, Plant's defense put together arguably its best performance in recent memory. Besides forcing three turnovers, the Panthers held Chamberlain quarterback Dontae Aycock, arguably the most versatile signal caller in the area, to minus-2 yards rushing and 123 yards of total offense.
"(The defense) has done it all year," Weiner said.
Aycock, who entered the game with nearly 2,000 yards of offense, carried the ball 18 times. Nine of those attempts went for negative yards as time and again he was buried behind the line by a tidal wave of Plant defenders — and often hit extremely hard before going down.
"I think we surprised them," Plant safety Hunter Baldwin said. "Our defense can bring it."
Two early offensive miscues helped Chamberlain dig itself a 20-0 hole. The Chiefs lost a fumble at their own 43 on their opening series and later coughed it up again on a kickoff return.
Tyler Rhodes booted first-quarter field goals of 41 and 32 yards to make it 6-0, and receiver Orson Charles rushed it in from 8 yards out to give Plant at 13-0 lead with 1:41 left in the quarter. Quarterback Phillip Ely, a sophomore making only his second start in place of senior star Aaron Murray, who is injured, had one touchdown strike, to Charles (63, 29 yards).
Aycock and Co. tried to rally, but were thwarted several times in the final quarter by the Plant defense. "They never get enough credit," Weiner said.