TAMPA — Plant midfielder Danny Johnson has never had a chance to celebrate a win this way. But the Panthers never had a victory like this one to celebrate.
With time winding down until a trip to the Class 6A region semifinals was going to be decided by penalty kicks, Johnson unleashed a right-footed shot along the right post, giving Plant a 2-1 two-overtime session win over Countryside on Thursday night.
He ran toward the far corner and took off his shirt, turning around to see the student section of the Dads Stadium grandstand hopping the fence and storming the field.
Johnson's goal in the 97th minute was the winner, but Plant's season nearly ended less than 20 game minutes earlier until John Fernandez's header tied the game with just seconds remaining in regulation.
"Just by itself, we've never had a win down like this," Plant coach Chris Carbon said. "It's never been this kind of battle. From start to finish, it was a battle."
For most of the game, the Cougars (15-10-1) outplayed Plant, and until the 80th minute, it appeared Countryside junior Jagger Martinez's left-footed shot from 20 yards in the 45th minute was going to be the difference.
But with the game clock stopped under two minutes, the Panthers (11-7-1) were on the brink.
Fernandez charged a ball in front of the goal, flicked it to the right and into the net.
Then, in the second of two overtimes, the Cougars defense jumped on Plant senior Josh Munch in transition, he tapped it to Johnson, who scored the winner along the right side.