Sunday, May 27, 2018
Sports

Plant City looks to force tiebreaker with win over Newsome

A three-game losing streak that very nearly became four.

Injuries to seemingly every player who has attempted to carry the football.

Considering all of that, it's difficult to believe Plant City (4-4, 2-2) still has control of its playoff fate.

But that is the case. With a win over Newsome (4-4, 3-1) tonight and an East Bay loss to Brandon, the Raiders win the runnerup spot and advance. If favored East Bay beats Brandon and Plant City wins, it would happily enter a three-team tiebreaker against Newsome and East Bay on Monday to determine who is headed to the playoffs.

"I would love that opportunity," said Raider head coach Wayne Ward.

His team started off 3-1 with the big win coming against Gaither. Then the Raiders lost to Durant, which is still perfect on the year, and turned in lackluster losing efforts against Alonso and East Bay, the latter result putting Plant City in danger of missing the playoffs.

But last week, Plant City's fortunes finally changed. The Raiders eeked out a 24-22 victory on the road against Brandon thanks to Jorge Navarrette's 35-yard field goal with less than two minutes to play.

"Amazing. It was a beautiful thing," Ward said. "We've had a lot of young players get pressed into duty lately, and not mop-up duty. It's been refreshing."

One of those players, freshman running back Jordan Robinson, followed up a 49-yard effort in the East Bay loss by taking over the Brandon game. Robinson had 16 carries for yards.

And then of course he got hurt, and will miss tonight's critical contest at Newsome.

Already the Raiders have seen Sterling Day and Erving Michael, the two players who were supposed to get most of the carries, go down to injury. Michael (foot) is likely out for the year but Day was actually cleared to practice Tuesday.

"Oh my goodness. It's been one thing after the next and we're not talking about minor injuries. It's been dislocations and breakings," Ward said.

Day should get the start against Newsome but Colby Diers, normally a wide receiver, also will see action.

The key, however, may be what the Raiders can do defensively against Newsome's smashmouth offense and running quarterback Will Worth. Worth put on an amazing show against Plant City last year, running the ball for 310 yards on 31 carries. No one else on the team had more than a half-dozen rushes.

Worth again is the Wolves' top ball carrier. But he also averages more than 10 pass attempts per game also. Newsome has won four of its last five, the lone defeat coming to Durant.

John Broome and Quentin Robinson have led the way along the defensive front for Plant City while junior Dylan Johnson has topped the linebacking group in tackles and Jyquis Thomas has keyed the secondary.

That defeat to Newsome knocked Plant City out of the playoffs last season, and while the Raiders can't return the favor completely Friday it would be a first step.

If the Raiders win, they would host Monday's 7A-8 runner-up tiebreaker by virtue of what would be a superior overall record (5-4, while Newsome would be 4-5 and East Bay no better). That's a huge advantage not only from having more fans, but because Plant City would get a bye for the first quarter.

Whoever wins the first quarter between Newsome and East Bay would then play the Raiders in the second quarter. The coin toss might be the most important play especially with the ball-control nature of either would-be opponent.

"You definitely want the football first," Ward said.

Naturally the Raider must defeat Newsome first. If the Wolves win they go in as the runner-up.

Durant has already clinched the district title.

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