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Football: Tampa Bay Tech 62, Plant City 21

Published Oct. 28, 2017

TAMPA — Tampa Bay Tech coach Jayson Roberts knows he's lucky to have Michael Penix on his team.

As far as Roberts is concerned, Penix, a Tennessee commit, is the best quarterback in the state, and the three-star recruit has got the accuracy to support that claim.

Still, before the season even began, Roberts warned his quarterback that it wouldn't be just him in the offensive spotlight.

"We know if we want to throw it, we know what kind of guy we've got, what kind of weapons we have out wide," Roberts said of Penix. "But there's nothing more demoralizing than being able to run the ball on teams, and we wanted to establish that as our identity."

And if the Titans (8-1) hadn't already done that this season, they certainly accomplished it in Friday's district matchup with Plant City, running for 400 yards and seven touchdowns to beat the Raiders 62-21.

The Titans wasted no time starting that strategy, as former Raider Treshaun Ward scored the first touchdown 75 seconds after the whistle blew. The rest of the half, though, was all about Xavier Freeman, who scored the next three Tampa Bay Tech touchdowns on 25-, 9- and 1-yard runs.

After the break, Jaquavious Johnson had two of his own, rounding out the trio that Roberts' offense has hung its hat.

Freeman said that while the three of them can be quite competitive with one another during practice and even before kickoff, once the game starts, their shared goal trumps all.

"The backs have a really good relationship, and we're rotating every drive," Freeman said. "There's no arguments about who gets the ball more, we just keep each other up. We cheer each other on, on the sideline all the time."

The Tampa Bay Tech defense held Plant City (3-6) to 51 yards rushing in the first half, but the Raiders found a little more success through the air. Quarterback Braxton Plunk completed 9 of 14 passes for 165 yards in the first half, helping set up rushing touchdowns from Eric Wilson that put the Raiders within two scores at halftime.

But once the third quarter began, Penix took his turn to lead the way, connecting with Myron Scott and Isaiah Stephens on 40- and 7-yard touchdown passes.

For his part, Penix finished 10-of-17 for 195 yards and an interception. And though he likes taking shots at the end zone and having the ball in his hands, he said, he's just as happy watching his running backs pound it up the middle.

"I'm good. We had a few passing touchdowns also, but it's a team game," Penix said. "I always put the team before me, so I was proud the running backs did what they had to do and the O-line did what they had to do to make that happen."

In the second half, Plant City got another score from Wilson — who finished with 101 of the Raiders' 128 rushing yards — but the Titans kept piling on the yardage, even when Penix came out of the game in the fourth quarter.

"Me and my defensive coordinator today were talking about how much of a nightmare it would be to try and game-plan for us offensively," Roberts said, "knowing that there's that many guys that can be that dangerous with the ball."