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The more Plant spreads the ball around, the more playmakers emerge

With numerous players stepping up and making contributions, the Panthers have won 10 straight games and advanced to a Class 4M region final.
 
Plant junior quarterback JC Mirasola has completed 92 of 177 passes for 1,190 yards and 14 touchdowns with only four interceptions.
Plant junior quarterback JC Mirasola has completed 92 of 177 passes for 1,190 yards and 14 touchdowns with only four interceptions. [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times ]
Published Nov. 22, 2023

TAMPA — The Plant High football team could be a poster child for spreading the ball around.

For starters, consider the Panthers’ quarterback situation. They don’t have one starter, they have two: senior Trey O’Malley (73-for-136 passing for 982 yards, 15 touchdowns, 2 interceptions) and junior JC Mirasola (92 of 177 for 1,190 yards, 14 touchdowns, 4 interceptions).

Running backs? They have four-star junior Waltez Clark, a University of Florida commit who has gained 422 yards on 67 carries.

But when Clark missed several games with a rib injury, a bunch of others stepped in to carry the load, including: Mirasola (39 carries, 380 yards), O’Malley (34-163), Chase Jarrett (29-171) and Antonio Wimbley (27-130). In all, nine Panthers have taken a handoff this season.

Plant junior running back Waltez Clark, a University of Florida commit, missed some early games with a leg injury but appears to be 100% heading into a Class 4M region final.
Plant junior running back Waltez Clark, a University of Florida commit, missed some early games with a leg injury but appears to be 100% heading into a Class 4M region final. [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times ]

Receivers? No fewer than 16 Panthers have caught at least one pass, and seven have grabbed seven or more. Junior Ben Mackinnon leads with 42 receptions for 470 yards, followed by Clark (19-287), Tripp Brown (18-247), Creighton Koontz (18-227) and Mikhail Solomon (12-218).

Scoring? Plant has had 17 players score in one way or another (touchdowns, two-point conversions, field goals, extra points) and 14 who have scored a touchdown. Clark leads that group with 18.

Add it up, and it’s no wonder Plant (10-2) has won 10 straight games, and is averaging 33.3 points and 302.6 yards per game.

“This is definitely different than the normal one or two guys who get the ball all the time, those one or two guys who are a step above in ability over everybody else,” third-year Plant head coach Hank Brown said. “Distributing the ball to all these guys this year wasn’t by design. It’s a case of a bunch of guys stepping up and becoming playmakers, making contributions, being ready.”

In his third season as Plant head coach, Hank Brown has led the Panthers to a 10-2 record and into a Class 4M region final.
In his third season as Plant head coach, Hank Brown has led the Panthers to a 10-2 record and into a Class 4M region final. [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times ]

The trouble for opponents — the next being Sumner (11-1) in a Class 4M region final Friday night — is finding specific Panthers to focus on.

“It helps that we have total trust in everybody,” Clark said, “and we have no hesitation.”

Added Jarrett, “We have each other’s backs.”

Brown did note that having so many players involved leads to more coaching, planning and organization.

Plant senior quarterback Trey O'Malley has completed 73 of 136 passes for 982 yards and 15 touchdowns with only two interceptions this season.
Plant senior quarterback Trey O'Malley has completed 73 of 136 passes for 982 yards and 15 touchdowns with only two interceptions this season. [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times ]
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“It’s been a process that I believe has gotten better and better as the year has gone on,” he said.

Said O’Malley, “It’s all clicking now.”

Defensively, the sentiment is similar. “We’re swarming,” defensive lineman Ty Conze said. “It’s everybody to the ball. Everybody.”

Sacks? Plant has 14 players who have collected at least one. Seven players average at least three tackles per game.

“We are simply deep at positions all over the field,” Brown said. “Our depth is tremendous.”