TAMPA - It was just a preseason game, but it felt like much more to Plant after it defeated Gaither 27-7.
In the debut of coach Bob Weiner, Plant, 1-9 last season, often executed with precision and always was pumped with enthusiasm.
"When I first came here everyone was excited and everybody thought everything was great," Weiner said. "But I told our guys that's not reality because we've never faced adversity. After we've faced adversity then we can see how we were really stand."
The good news, Weiner said, is that when his team did face a little adversity, trailing 7-3 in the second quarter, the Panthers bounced back with an 80-yard touchdown drive.
"That set the tone right there," Weiner said. "We showed that we believed a little in ourselves."
"Plant really had a lot of energy and enthusiasm," Gaither coach Mark Kantor said.
"Last year we took it to them and they seemed to struggle. But tonight, well, they had more life and they played very well."
ALONSO 17, WHARTON 9: Host Alonso received plenty of help in its 17-9 preseason victory against Wharton.
The Ravens scored all of their points after Wildcat mistakes, and saw Wharton's best drive come to an immediate halt when lightning ended the game with 7:33 remaining.
"We didn't have an option on whether to resume play," Alonso coach Mike Heldt said. "It was an administrative decision."
With Hillsborough County Athletic Director Vernon Korhn looking on from the sideline, game officials stopped the game when lightning flashed in the sky behind the Wharton stands.
Wharton had marched 52 yards and faced a fourth down at Alonso's 28 when play was stopped.
"We've got a lot to work on before next week," Heldt said. "But that's why we do a preseason game like this."
Wharton's special teams had a poor night. Two poor center snaps prevented the Wildcats from getting off a punt and field-goal attempt. A blocked punt and fumble set up Alonso's two touchdowns.
"The bad weather we've experienced lately has cut into our special-team work and it showed," Wharton coach Melvin Cunningham said.
Wharton took a 9-0 first-quarter lead when Joel Miller scored and Chris Alexander tackled Luis Sepulveda in the end zone for a safety on the ensuing kickoff.
Alonso turned Kyle Thompson's fumble recovery into a 6-yard TD run by Rob Williams, who carried the ball on the Ravens' first 16 rushing attempts. Josh Krenick put Alonso in front with a 45-yard field goal and Will Farah returned a blocked punt by Eric Ortiz 8 yards for a score.
Times correspondent Don Jensen contributed to this report.