PLANT CITY - Despite Durant's 16 first downs and 300-plus yards of offense, the defense and special teams perhaps made the biggest difference in a 24-14 win over Wharton. Trailing 10-0 late in the second quarter, Wharton's Donald Ankers was intercepted by Dominic Washington to end the drive. Then, early in the third quarter, the Wildcats were stopped short of the goal line three times inside of the Durant 10. It all led to a blocked field goal on fourth down.
"Our special teams and defense played well," Cougars coach Mike Gottman said. "They came up big when we needed them to."
After the blocked kick, Durant's offense took the field for what would be an 8-play, 98-yard drive that was capped by Matt Baughman's 1-yard touchdown run. He finished with 8 carries for 66 yards and two scores. Baughman's TD gave the Cougars a 17-point cushion entering the fourth quarter.
Wharton made a valiant effort in the fourth behind Ankers, who threw for two touchdowns within 21/2 minutes of each other to cut the lead to three. He ended the game 12 of 15 for 113 yards and two scores. However, Baughman sealed the victory with a late 3-yard TD run, capping a 10-play 80-drive march.
"Wharton played very good," Gottman said. "We moved the ball very well, but we made some mistakes and let them back in the game." Matt Stwan led Durant with 70 yards on 15 carries, and Malcom Shaver had 55 yards on 11 attempts. Quarterback Chip Bowden was 5 of 8 for 105 yards for Wharton.
"We played a very good Durant team to the very end," coach Melvin Cunningham said. "We control our own destiny now, and if we win our next three games, we can make it to the playoffs."