ORLANDO — As the final seconds mercifully ticked off the Camping World Stadium clock Friday night, Plant players and coaches shed a few tears and exchanged bear hugs. A perfect 13-0 season came to a crashing halt in a 45-6 loss to Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas in the Class 7A state final.
The only other time Plant lost a state final in five other appearances was in 2010 … to St. Thomas Aquinas.
Those facts weren't going to ruin an otherwise notable season. It started in Mobile, Ala., with a 51-21 win over Bryant, included a 29-27 win over rival Armwood and was kept alive by a blocked punt against Lakeland in the final minute that led to the winning touchdown in the region semifinals.
Unlike some other Plant championship teams, there was no true superstar. Senior quarterback Dane Frantzen turned in a tremendous season, accounting for more than 3,000 yards of offense. And seniors Whop Philyor, Thomas Allen, Juwan Burgess, Kyle Trina, Aaron King, Jamil Thomas and Drew Miller were instrumental to the winning streak.
"It's been an amazing season," Allen said. "No one thought that we could even get here. It's been so much fun. I wouldn't change anything for the world."
Coach Robert Weiner, who is in his 12th season at Plant, has coached four state championship teams since 2006. He realized it would take a near perfect effort to make it five.
"I'm incredibly proud of my guys for the season they had," Weiner said. "It's one of the greatest groups of young men I've ever been around in my entire life. I couldn't be happier to call a group Plant Panthers.
"(Friday) was a joy to be with them. There were many, many times of celebration of who they are and where they've been. It was an undefeated season heading into this game and nobody thought they would make it to the state championship game. I love these guys and I love them just as much now as I did before the game."
Weiner will be back next season to make another run. There is still plenty of talent returning in 2017, including tight end Judge Culpepper, linebacker Micah McFadden and running back Ty Thompson.
But next year wasn't on the minds of the graduating players.
"I wish we could go back and redo it," Frantzen said. "But you can't do that. I've just got to move on to the next chapter. It's hard for me to think that it's the 15th week and it's over. I never wanted it to end."
Staff writer Bob Putnam contributed to this story.