Plant City junior quarterback Bennie Coney will not play in this week's game against district rival Newsome, serving a team-implemented one-game suspension for an undisclosed violation of team rules, Plant City coach Wayne Ward said Tuesday morning.
It's a huge statement by Ward, a Plant City alum who is in his first year as head coach, to bench one of his top players for a game between the top teams in Class 5A-6.
"It's going to be an opportunity for the team to come together," Ward said. "Others guys are going to step up and make plays. It's obviously going to be hard to replace a player of Bennie's talent, but it's a chance for us to come together as a team and show we're a good team and not just Bennie Coney."
Coney, who figures to be one of the county's top recruits in the Class of 2012, didn't start last week's 31-20 loss to Brandon, entered the game in the second series and was benched later in the game.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder, who has offers from Auburn, USF, Texas Tech, Purdue, Michigan and Boston College, is 34-for-61 for 573 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions. He has also run for 177 yards (8.4 a carry) and three touchdowns.
Sophomore Nick Rodriguez will start in Coney's place. Ward said while some adjustments will be made, the Raiders will still run their same no-huddle spread offense.
"It's a very important game for us, especially coming off the loss to Brandon," Ward said. "We can't turn over the football like we have. We have to take advantages of the scoring opportunities we have. Newsome is a team that's very good as what they do and we can't give them the ball."
The Raiders committed two turnovers against Brandon and have six turnovers through three games. Last year, the Raiders has 10 turnovers through three games.
Also of note, star offensive tackle Jordan Prestwood missed the last 6:20 of Friday's game with a hand injury and did not practice Monday, but Ward said he will return to practice Tuesday and should be ready to play against Newsome.
-- EDUARDO A. ENCINA (firstname.lastname@example.org)