RIVERVIEW — Sumner entered the game as one of the hottest teams in the area, averaging 59 points in their past three contests. Plant had not allowed a touchdown in its first three games.
The result was an evenly matched contest that came down to the wire, with the Panthers holding on for a 23-15 victory.
Plant (4-0) jumped out to a first-quarter lead when senior Jack Lennon, playing with a heavy heart after the death of his grandfather, connected with junior Jaquez Kindell from 12 yards out for a 7-0 lead.
Sumner’s defense came through in the second quarter when strong safety Le’Royce Durham snagged a deflected pass and set up the Stingrays at midfield. From there, it was sophomore Greg Smith (18-of-34, 192 passing yards, 15 carries, 87 yards) slipping out of multiple tackles on a 45-yard quarterback keeper to tie the game at 7.
The Panthers answered later in the quarter as Lennon (16-of-30, 176 yards, 2 touchdowns) connected with Kindell a second time, from 20 yards out on a slant pass to take a 14-7 lead into the half.
“Coming out after they scored and being able to sustain a long drive was one of the keys to the game,” said Plant head coach Hank Brown. “Jack is the consummate leader. We preach selflessness, and these guys really believe in it.”
Lennon burst up the middle from 37 yards on an option keeper in the third quarter to put the Panthers up 20-7. A J.P. Florentino-Mattos field goal gave Plant a 16-point lead midway through the quarter.
Late in the fourth, Smith connected with freshman Javielle Boyd (6 receptions, 71 yards) to cut the lead to 23-16 after a successful 2-point conversion.
After forcing a punt, Smith led the Stingrays on a long drive. But their hopes were dashed when junior defensive back Kelvin Faison played the ball perfectly for an end-zone interception with 1:10 remaining to seal the victory.
Although his team finally gave up a touchdown, Brown had praise for his defenders.
“The defense is absolutely relentless, and their work ethic is the foundation of everything that we do,” the coach said. “We condition religiously, but they take it to another level with their attitude and personality. They have so much fun together and really encourage each other.”