tampabay.com

Buzz is back at Plant

Panthers have started strong and are in good position to reach the postseason.

By ROD GIPSON
Published October 7, 2005


TAMPA - The play clock read zero for only moments before Bob Weiner started gathering his players. Weiner, Plant's second-year coach, had just won his first district game of the season, 24-8 against Blake last week.

He congratulated his players on their effort, but quickly tempered any giddiness with the realization there is plenty of football action left in the season. Still, Weiner and the Panthers must acknowledge the excitement surrounding their program this season. At 4-1 and 1-0 in Class 4A, District 10, the Panthers are off to their best start in 14 seasons and are nearing the school's first playoff berth since 1999.

"This team's mindset is excitement," Weiner said. "And we feel that we should be excited. We play excited like boys, but we focus and prepare like men. But we also know we still have to go out and play the games."

And outside of a 10-point loss to Middleton in Week 2, Plant has played the games well. A potent, multi-pronged offense and a stingy defense have served the Panthers well. Last week's district win against the Yellow Jackets highlighted Plant's approach.

The Panthers used six ballcarriers.

The passing attack connected with seven receivers.

Two quarterbacks threw touchdowns, including one on the last play of the first half.

The defense limited Blake to fewer than 200 yards of offense and stopped the Yellow Jackets on fourth down five times.

"That's a first priority with us," said Weiner. "We want a consistent, balanced team. We have 13 guys who have run the ball this season and 12 guys who have caught passes."

Cohesion and a tremendous amount of chemistry are the reasons for success, said Weiner. Senior middle linebacker Brandan Underwood is a perfect example.

"The season is coming along good," Underwood said. "We're trying to make the best of it but I can't really say anything just for myself, what happens for me happens for the team. We know we have to play as a unit to have any success."

The Panthers host longtime rival Hillsborough tonight in a huge contest, albeit a nondistrict one. Tied atop the district with Jefferson at 1-0, the Panthers host district foe Leto next week and the Dragons Oct. 28. The Jefferson matchup likely will determine the district champion and owner of a first-round home playoff game.

"We're trying to go as far as we can," Underwood said of the playoff chase. "We know we have to come out and play tough. If we play ball like we know we can, we can be successful."