TAMPA — Even though the final score was 35-16 — 35-0 at one point — and the Plant offense was ineffective until the fourth quarter, Panthers coach Robert Weiner didn’t look at Saturday’s preseason loss to Tallahassee Godby as a shellacking.
“I didn’t feel we were outmatched,” the coach said after the Fox Sports Florida Kickoff Classic at Raymond James Stadium.
The Cougars, the Class 5A defending state champions, looked bigger, were faster and made the bigger plays, starting with the first one of the game when FSU recruit Jacob Pugh came in untouched to sack Plant quarterback Colby Brown.
That was the beginning of Plant’s offensive woes. Some were self-inflicted: Tykesi Keaton-Baldwin had a 24-yard run before the ball was yanked from his hands on the way down. Some were bad luck: Two interceptions came on tipped passes. But all of the trouble was, in part, because of poor field position. The Panthers had nine first-half possessions, six starting inside the 15-yard-line.
“We couldn’t turn the field position in the first quarter, and it was a big problem,” said Weiner, who held out starting running back Patrick Brooks, defensive back Derrick Baity and other key contributors.
Other than some tackling lapses when it came to Godby running back Kenny Young, the defense played well. The 5-foot-6 Cougar scored the first touchdown on a short run. On the next drive, he set up a score with a winding 22-yard run on fourth and 3 where it seemed every Panther had a chance to tackle him.
He scored again in the third quarter on a 31-yard run as Godby pushed its lead to 28-0.
Plant’s best moments came in the fourth quarter. Brown hit Cam Winter for touchdown passes of 15 and 29 yards. Brown, who finished with 250 yards in the air, completed five passes to Winter for 106 yards in the second half.
Plant now heads to Tyrone, Ga., for Thursday’s season opener against No. 10 Sandy Creek.
“We’ve got to rally back together now that we know the level we have to play at,” Weiner said. “We know we set two tall tasks for us at the beginning of the season. … I think this will make us better down the road.”