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Plant facing unusual decision at quarterback

TAMPA — It's one of the toughest decisions Plant coach Robert Weiner will ever make.

The Panthers are two wins from their second Class 4A state title in three years, and Plant has a quarterback quandary.

Play the All-America quarterback, the one whose high school career seemed over after a serious injury but is working his way back through resilience and sweat? Or stay with the steady arm of a 15-year-old baby-faced sophomore who was anonymous two months ago, but has rallied his team to the cusp of another state championship?

Start Aaron Murray in Friday's Class 4A state semifinal against Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer or stay with Phillip Ely, who has won seven straight starts?

"I don't think a lot of people would envy my position," Weiner said. "I think they envy my position being in a state semifinal game but having to make a decision between guys who have done great, I think most of my colleagues understand it's a pretty tough spot."

When Murray, a Georgia commit eyeing early graduation so he can enroll at Athens, broke his left fibula and dislocated his ankle against Hillsborough on Oct. 16, the prognosis was grim.

"The doctors said, 'He'll play again, just not for you,' " Weiner said.

But Murray was determined. He went through two hours of rehab every day before school, two hours after school, and afterward he did his homework with his leg in a bucket of ice until bedtime.

"In the Murray house, when someone makes a decision on something, the rest of us are there to support it," said Murray's mother, Lauren.

At practice Tuesday, Murray showcased the cannon arm and quick release that made him one of the nation's top recruits, but he had a visible limp, his left ankle heavily taped. He wasn't made available for interviews.

Still, Murray's not 100 percent, so what is he?

"Talking to his therapist, he says it's really nonquantifiable that way," Weiner said. "The bottom line is that he is healthy enough to go around and move and do physical activity. To what degree? That's a football decision."

Then there's Ely, whose confidence has grown with every week. He's throwing passes with more zip and definitely more authority. He led the Panthers past nemesis Armwood in last week's region final. Monday, Murray's first practice back, was Ely's best practice yet, Weiner said. "He was slinging the ball around like a guy who is an eight-week veteran."

But now he might step aside.

"Nothing changes by it," Ely said of Murray's return to the practice field. "We're all happy he's back.

"I'm OK with it," Ely shrugs. "I just want a ring."

Weiner said he will likely make that call after tonight's practice, but might keep it private until game time.

"Either way," senior wide receiver Orson Charles said. "We can win with either quarterback."

Plant facing unusual decision at quarterback 12/09/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 11:46am]

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