Saturday, January 20, 2018
Sports

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."

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