Saturday, January 20, 2018

State region final notebook: Plant defense knows when to get tough

Plant, a team that has scored 35 points per game this season, draws the eye with a pass-heavy, high-scoring offense.

But in its second-round playoff win against Orlando Dr. Phillips, the biggest play of the game — perhaps the season — was on the other side of the ball.

On Dr. Phillips' two-point conversion attempt in overtime, linebacker Andrew Beck, a Texas commit, stopped the lead blocker, leaving defensive back Bernard Rogers open to tackle the runner for a loss. Plant won 24-23.

"If you wanted to put the whole season on the line, you'd want to put it on the line with those guys," coach Robert Weiner said.

The defense's performance was a little reminder that even though they're not the ones putting points on the board, Beck said, the unit can still win games for the Panthers (10-1-1).

"That's going to be one of those games we talk about at our 30-year high school reunion," Beck said.

Versatile RBs make big contributions

An injured Patrick Brooks missed the first five games of the season, but since returning in a 47-7 win against Riverview, the junior running back has been an asset to the Panthers.

Brooks has seven touchdowns, including the winner against Dr. Phillips in overtime, and has rushed for at least 90 yards in six of his seven games.

Plant, which averages 40 more passing yards a game than rushing, may not prioritize its ground game. But Brooks, who has 145 receiving yards, hasn't been overlooked.

It's a comfort to quarterback Colby Brown to have Brooks and Alex "Buddha" Jackson — who has 637 yards rushing and 323 yards receiving — in his back pocket, both of whom are viable threats on the ground and through the air.

"They can do it all," Brown said. "It's so nice to have them be versatile like that."

'Toughness' fueling title-hungry Panthers

It doesn't take Weiner long to pinpoint one of his offense's greatest weaknesses.

"We really have been unstoppable by other teams' defense," he said. "We've only stopped ourselves."

Friday against Dr. Phillips it did that a lot, accruing 17 penalties, 13 in the second half. Weiner, who admitted penalties stalled his Panthers' comeback in their loss to Tampa Bay Tech this season, understands how damaging self-inflicted wounds can be.

But its ability to overcome them tells the four-time state champion coach a lot about his team.

"I think the No. 1 trait of championship football teams is toughness — physical, mental, emotional toughness," he said. "And I felt like our team never budged on Friday night."


National Hoopfest: St. Petersburg’s Serrel Smith shines in loss to national power

TAMPA — Where there's a will, there's a way. And Serrel Smith had a gym-full of will on Saturday.With St. Petersburg trailing nationally-ranked Oak Hill Academy by as many as 21 points in the third quarter of the National Hoopfest contest, Smit...
Updated: 5 minutes ago

McIlroy shoots third-round 65, trails by 1 at Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Rory McIlroy fired 7-under 65 Saturday in the third round of the Abu Dhabi Championship to move one shot behind co-leaders Ross Fisher and Thomas Pieters. Fisher also shot 65, while overnight leader Pieters added 67 ...
Updated: 29 minutes ago

Avalanche climbs into playoff spot with ninth straight win

DENVER — The Avalanche has gone from pushover to powerhouse in less than a season, and its recent streak is evoking memories of past glory. Nathan MacKinnon, Erik Johnson and Mikko Rantanen had a goal and an assist each, Jonathan Bernier made 27 save...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Kerber ends Sharapova’s return to Australia

MELBOURNE, Australia — It was expected to be the match of the round. Angelique Kerber ensured it never became a contest.The 2016 Australian Open winner routed Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-3 in the third-round match on Saturday night, meaning she’ll be the ...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Lightning journal: Vasilevskiy’s bottom line, Callahan’s production concern

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The rest of the Lightning players had left the ice Friday afternoon, heading into the dressing room at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon for a quick change before the team’s charter flight to Minnesota.But G Andrei Vasilevskiy stayed ...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Sports in brief

SPORTSNO AIR FORCE GAMES; NFL BROADCASTS ABROAD IN JEOPARDYThe federal government shutdown prompted the Air Force Academy on Saturday to call off sports events and upended plans for military outside the United States wanting to follow today’s NFL con...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Shrine Game journal: USF players’ thoughts are with grieving QB Quinton Flowers

Shrine Game journal: USF players’ thoughts are with grieving QB Quinton Flowers

ST. PETERSBURG — USF had expected to have four former players in Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field, but QB Quinton Flowers had to miss the showcase game after learning that his grandmother had died late last week."I most definitely ...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Thunder embarrasses Cavs’ defense

CLEVELAND — LeBron James came up just short of 30,000 points. Oklahoma City nearly got there, too. Unable to stop Paul George, Russell Westbrook or Carmelo Anthony, the Cavaliers were embarrassed 148-124 on Saturday by the Thunder, who not only rolle...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Late score gives West victory over East in Shrine Game

Late score gives West victory over East in Shrine Game

ST. PETERSBURG — With less than a week to install a playbook, offenses can have it tough in college showcase games.And for 58 minutes on Saturday in the East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field, the teams combined for just one offensive touchdown.But...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Brady’s injured hand remains a mystery

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The week started with a little trash talk from the underdog. The rest was dominated by speculation about a certain 40-year-old quarterback’s injured throwing hand.Plenty of intrigue for when the Jaguars and Patriots meet in today’...
Updated: 1 hour ago