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Region football: Plant 13, Lakeland 10

LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times  Plant running back Leonard Parker is lifted up by teammate Micah McFadden after he ran for the game-winning touchdown during the second half of the game between Plant and Lakeland at Bryant Stadium in Lakeland, Fla., on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017.
LOREN ELLIOTT | Times Plant running back Leonard Parker is lifted up by teammate Micah McFadden after he ran for the game-winning touchdown during the second half of the game between Plant and Lakeland at Bryant Stadium in Lakeland, Fla., on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017.
Published Nov. 25, 2017

LAKELAND — The game — and the season — were supposed to be over.

Lakeland was set to exact revenge. The Dreadnaughts had the lead and the ball in the final three minutes and were heading for a field goal.

Then it happened.

The magic continued.

Plant's Romain Mungin and Isaac Sames converged on the kick. Bryce Love recovered it.

The Panthers followed that by going on another trademark last-minute drive. There were unbelievable catches and dramatic runs.

It ended with Leonard Parker scoring on a 7-yard run and giving Plant its first lead of the game with 52 seconds left.

The defense did just enough to make it stand as the Panthers pulled out an improbable 13-10 victory Friday night, leaving the home crowd at Lakeland's Bryant Stadium in stunned disbelief.

"I don't know how many more of these I can handle," Plant coach Robert Weiner said. "Well, I think I can handle two more this season if that's what it takes to win a state title."

By now, the Panthers' good fortune in the playoffs has been well documented.

Last week, Micah McFadden, initially stopped on the 1-yard line, scored after being lifted into the end zone by a lineman on second, grunting surge to complete a 92-yard drive in the final two minutes to beat Viera in the Class 7A region semifinals.

That propelled Plant (13-0) into Friday's region final against Lakeland. It was a rematch of last year's region semifinal that Plant pulled off thanks to blocked punt in the final minute that set up the winning touchdown.

The painful memories of a game that got away served as a powerful motivator for Lakeland.

This time, the Dreadnaughts had the right bounces and the big plays, at least for 45 minutes.

In the first quarter, Lakeland's Kevaris Thomas hit Daikwon Lawson on a 78-yard touchdown pass for a 7-0 lead.

The Panthers' Evan Passath connected on a pair of field goals in the second quarter to cut it to 7-6 at the half. The Dreadnaughts added a field goal in the third quarter for a 10-6 lead.

Despite the struggles on offense, Plant kept the game close thanks to a defense that registered four sacks and forced a turnover.

That's all Weiner could ask for.

"I knew it was going to be low scoring and an epic battle," Weiner said. "As long as we kept it within one score we had a chance to win."

In the fourth, Lakeland went on a time-consuming drive that stalled. The Dreadnaughts settled for a field-goal attempt.

Even then, Weiner was fine.

"If they got the kick, we could still score a touchdown and tie it. I really felt we were going to make something happen."

The kick was blocked.

That enabled Plant to reverse the outcome with a late rally.

"This was one for the ages," Weiner said. "We were able to handle all the ebbs and flows and find a way to make something happen at the end."

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