Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Plant living its 'destiny'

TAMPA — Ask anyone outside of South Tampa and they would say Plant's state championship aspirations died once All-America quarterback Aaron Murray broke his left leg seven weeks ago.

Without their leader, coach Robert Weiner instilled in his other 88 players that the dream wasn't over. And when the Panthers took the field for Friday's Class 4A state semifinal against Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer, Murray — who paced his rehabilitation twice as fast as expected — returned with them.

They needed Murray — and more. The Panthers turned in a complete team effort in a back-and-forth affair at Dads Stadium, beating Dwyer 33-21 with not only Murray's arm, but a rejuvenated running game and some clutch defensive plays.

With the victory, the Panthers (13-1) earned the right to play for their second state title in three years.

"We're a team of destiny," defensive lineman Austin Clark said. "Things like this only happen to a team that's destined to make it to that final game and get that ring like we've always wanted."

Now the only thing that stands in the way of a storybook ending is Tallahassee Lincoln on Dec. 20 at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.

"There's Disney all over this story," senior linebacker Beau Hume said. "We persevered. We brought a whole new definition of the word team."

Trailing 21-20 with 7:28 remaining, junior wide receiver DeAndre Queen took an end-around down the Plant sideline 45 yards to the Dwyer 25-yard line. Two plays later, senior running back Marco Cobb, who ran for 56 yards and two touchdowns, scored the eventual winning touchdown from 4 yards out.

The win didn't come without controversy. In the final three minutes, Dwyer (12-2) had an 83-yard touchdown pass called back by a holding penalty — the second time a touchdown was called back.

"It's horrible," Dwyer coach Jack Daniels said. "Try riding back four hours with these kids, nine of them played both ways, after having two touchdowns called back."

After Dwyer took an early 7-0 lead, Murray — back from a broken left fibula and dislocated ankle — brought his team back with one throw, rifling a 33-yard touchdown to Queen on Plant's first offensive play from scrimmage after Javonte Martin's 60-yard kickoff return.

"I was just praying I didn't overthrow him," Murray said. "My line gave me good protection, and they gave it to me all night. I got a little bit of rust off there, and the rest of the way I felt pretty good."

After trailing 14-13 at the half, Murray opened the third quarter with a seven-play, 54-yard touchdown drive, connecting with Nathan Marvel for passes of 42 and 13 yards, the latter for a touchdown.

"The kid's a phenomenal quarterback," Daniels said of Murray, who was 12-for-25 for 199 yards and two touchdowns. "He puts throws where most people can't put them."

But Dwyer answered with a 13-play, 80-yard drive to take a 21-20 lead and drove down the field on its next possession until Walter Hudnall intercepted a pass in the end zone.

"There were a lot of moments when we didn't look like we were going to do it," Weiner said. "But we just held on tight. That's what we did.

"We held onto each other and pulled together."

Up next

State finals

All games at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando. Admission is $10 per session.

Class 4A: Plant vs. Tallahassee Lincoln, 1 p.m. Dec. 20

On the Web: Friday Night Rewind was at all of Friday's games. Catch video highlights at highschool.

Plant living its 'destiny' 12/13/08 [Last modified: Sunday, December 14, 2008 1:35pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rowdies shut out at Pittsburgh


    PITTSBURGH — The Rowdies lost their first USL game in nearly a month, 1-0 to Pittsburgh on Thursday night.

  2. LSU's Paul Mainieri defends FSU's Mike Martin; Gators play Friday


    OMAHA, Neb. — LSU coach Paul Mainieri says whether Florida State's Mike Martin ever wins a national championship should have no bearing on how his long career in college baseball is judged.

    MADE IT: Josh Watson beats the tag of Louisville catcher Colby Fitch during TCU’s 4-3 win in the College World Series.
  3. Lightning fans, don't get attached to your first-round draft picks

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — When Lightning GM Steve Yzerman announces his first-round pick tonight in the amateur draft at No. 14, he'll invite the prospect onto the stage for the once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity.

    Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin (27) eludes  Montreal Canadiens left wing Phillip Danault (24) during the second period of Wednesday???‚??„?s (12/28/16) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens at the Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  4. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman also has top-9 wing on his wish list

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — Much has been made about the Lightning's interest in bolstering its blue line, even after last week's acquisition of defense prospect Mikhail Sergachev.

    Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman gestures as he speaks to the media about recent trades during a news conference before an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. The Lightning, over the past few days, have traded goaltender Ben Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings, forward Brian Boyle to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and forward Valtteri Filppula to the Philadelphia Flyers. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA101