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Winter turns in unforgettable performance

BY BRANDON WRIGHT

Times Staff Writer

TAMPA - Plant coach Robert Weiner said two-way standout Derek Winter left the field for one snap in Fridays state semifinal win against Miami Washington.

"Really?" Winter said. "I don't remember."

Winter's memory might be clouded by exhaustion, but it's unlikely the Tornadoes will forget him any time soon. Winter caught eight passes for 101 yards - including the go-ahead fourth-quarter touchdown - and picked off a ball with 3:40 to play, sending Washington home empty-handed for the fourth year in a row.

"Most of the guys will be going out to party (Friday night)," Weiner said. "I'm pretty sure Derek will be recuperating."

Washington's defense tried nearly everything to slow Winter. The Tornadoes jammed him at the line of scrimmage. They backed off and gave him a cushion. They used so many different combinations of defensive backs that Winter lost track.

"I think it was like four or five," Winter said. "They'd put one on me, I'd make a catch and he would bail out."

Winter caught eight of quarterback Robert Marve's 13 completions, including his biggest - a diving, five-yard touchdown along the left sideline that gave Plant the lead for good.

"We have a connection," Marve said. "All I have to do is put it in the area."

Marve and Winter hooked up on the first four attempts of the opening drive, three of which resulted in first downs. That drive lead to a 7-0 Plant lead, something Panthers fans are becoming accustomed to.

"Out of 14 games, we've scored first in 13 of them and in the other we fumbled at the 1-yard line," Weiner said. "Scoring on the first drive can take a team's heart out."

And on the play after Weiner jokingly said he gave Winter "a much needed break for exactly one play", he intercepted Sancho McDonald at the Panthers' 14.

"I can't explain this feeling," Winter said as players and fans celebrated on top of the torn up Dad's Stadium field. "I think I'm too tired to feel anything."

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