Advertisement
  1. Sports
  2. /
  3. HomeTeam

Steinbrenner ends Plant’s district dominance

The Panthers won’t make it 15 seasons without a division loss as the Warriors remain unbeaten.
A piece of jersey was often all Plant could grab onto in regards to Steinbrenner's Deon Silas, who ran wild in the first half, helping the Warriors to a 42-0 halftime lead. [SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times]
Published Oct. 5
Updated Oct. 5

TAMPA — As the final seconds ticked away, the capacity crowd at Dad’s Stadium had disappeared.

So did Plant’s impressive streak in district games.

For 14 years, the Panthers remained perfect in games that mattered most during the regular season.

Sure, Plant was winless coming into Friday night’s matchup with unbeaten Steinbrenner. But there was still plenty at stake. After all, this was the Class 8A, District 7 opener, the first time the Panthers had a chance to keep their longstanding streak intact.

Instead, it came to an emphatic end with a 49-0 loss to the Warriors. The game was so lopsided, there was a running clock throughout the second half.

“To win this game, at this place, it’s just an unbelievable job by our guys,” Steinbrenner coach Andres Perez said.

Considering all but one other team in the district has a losing record, the Warriors’ win all but wrapped up the 8A-7 title. That means the Panthers’ 14-year playoff run as district champions also comes to an end.

Steinbrenner receiver Aidan Bitter makes a nice leaping grab during the first half. He finishes with two touchdowns. [SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times]

To get an idea of just how long those streaks were, consider that when they started in 2005, Steinbrenner still had another four years before it even opened as a high school.

Robert Weiner, the coach who led Plant to all those district wins and titles, was not on the sideline Friday. He was a few miles away watching the game via livestream while serving a six-week suspension handed down by the Florida High School Athletic Association for providing impermissible benefits to one of his players who needed a place to live.

That player was declared eligible after a hardship hearing Thursday. Weiner has an appeal to reduce his suspension and $5,000 fine for the violation set for next week in Gainesville.

Weiner’s presence might not have made much of a difference.

Steinbrenner (6-0) had this game circled on the calendar since the schedule came out.

Steinbrenner quarterback Haden Carlson is on target most of the night. [SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times]

From the start, the Warriors were dominant, especially in the passing game. Quarterback Haden Carlson threw four touchdowns — two each to Aidan Bitter and Jett Law.

Running back Deon Silas ripped off a 76-yard run for a score. There was even some razzle dazzle on a 42-yard touchdown pass.

Everything went the Warriors’ way.

By halftime, Steinbrenner had a 42-0 lead.

Early in the third quarter, the Warriors scored again, this time on a fumble recovery in the end zone off a blocked punt.

Both teams emptied their benches soon after.

Fans stayed on Steinbrenner’s side to savor the moment. The band kept playing. Perez was doused with ice water.

And the players whooped it up, high-fiving the Steinbrenner faithful along the fence.

“We’ve been prepared and focused for this game for so long,” Carlson said. “It’s a big deal to us.”

Still, Perez cautioned that this was just one game. The Warriors still have four more, including two more against 8A-7 foes. If Steinbrenner can win out, it will have its first undefeated regular season and district title.

“This was just one chapter,” Perez said. “We still have the rest of our story to write.”

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Tre'von Riggins, a University of Miami commit, has been a force for the Lakewood defense since he transferred from IMG Academy. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    The “Duke Energy Boys” have helped drive an unbeaten season, not giving up a touchdown in seven games.
  2. Mitchell quarterback Ezra Brennan has already surpassed 2,000 yards passing this season. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times
    The learning curve isn’t too steep for the first-year Mustangs starter, whose unflappable nature can be traced to the other sport he excels in — baseball.
  3. Indiana wide receiver Whop Philyor of Plant High makes a move around Northwestern defensive lineman Joe Gaziano on Nov. 2  in Bloomington, Ind. Indiana won 34-3. DOUG MCSCHOOLER  |  AP
    Illinois, Indiana and Minnesota have become feel-good stories in college football this season, with coaches and players who have roots locally.
  4. Clearwater Central Catholic's Zac Elam says that one of the offensive line's strengths is that "we’re really close as a group." DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times
    While often inconspicuous, the Marauders’ offensive line knows its value this season.
  5. Nature Coast's Dedric Hall does a little bit of everything for the Sharks, which is why they're in the second round of the playoffs. LUIS SANTANA  |  Times
    The junior can burn you in the running game. He’s nifty in the passing game. And if you’re not careful, he’ll pick off your quarterback, too.
  6. Admiral Farragut's Martel Mott takes off after intercepting a pass by Cambridge Christian's Titan Williamson during the teams' Sept. 13 regular-season matchup. LUIS SANTANA  |  Times
    One thing is certain in the playoffs under the new format: rematches from the regular season.
  7. Not only is Riverview's Alyssa Hendrix a two-times state champ in cross country, but her latest title follows two earlier this year in state track. Hendrix, pictured here from the spring, won the 3,200- and 1,600-meter titles in May. SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times
    The final tally: Two individual champs, three team champs and a host of individual medalists.
  8. Clearwater Central Catholic’s Jordan Niles, right, hugs Calvary Christian’s Richie Ilarraza after the Marauders’ playoff win. Niles is a former Calvary player. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    Sunday Morning QB: Clearwater Central Catholic, Steinbrenner and Chamberlain are just a few of the standouts in the region quarterfinals.
  9. Plant senior Birdie Frierson, here in a match earlier this postseason, says on Saturday the Panthers "were just a little bit off. The serves were just a little bit off. The sets were just a little bit off. Nothing felt like ‘This is it. This is our point.’ It was that kind of day.” SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times
    Both Tampa teams sustain road losses in the state semifinals.
  10. The region quarterfinals started Friday night for teams around Tampa Bay. SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times
    The Packers, missing a few playmakers while a few more take their lumps Friday, shut out Countryside.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement