tampabay.com

County on notice

With a proficient offense and stingy defense, the Panthers will challenge for county supremacy.

By JIM REESE
Published August 25, 2006


TAMPA - After turning the Panthers around in two years from a 3-7 season to an 9-3 mark and postseason appearance in 2005, coach Rob Weiner feels this could be the year for Plant to make a statement to the county about joining its elite teams.

"We are very excited about the coming season at Plant," said Weiner, voted by his peers in 2005 as Coach of The Year. "We have players of talent, and just as importantly, young men of great character, both on and off the field. I feel both of those attributes will show this year."

Leading the Panthers is quarterback Robert Marve, whom Weiner calls "a very special player who leads by example." Weiner will make extensive use of Marve in the running and passing games.

THROUGH THE AIR: Marve, who gained 20 pounds of muscle through an extensive weight training program in the offseason, compiled an impressive set of statistics last year. He completed 103-of-187 for 1,584 yards and 14 touchdowns. Working on his footwork this winter, he moves more quickly both in and out of the pocket, enabling Plant to utilize option run-pass plays.

The Panthers will miss wide receiver Dylan Brown (32 catches in 2005) but Weiner feels adequate receivers are in place.

Marve will throw to junior Derek Winter (25 catches for six touchdowns), and seniors Thompson Brandes and Zack Midulla, formerly a middle linebacker who switched to tight end. Filling in as a reserve both as a receiver and backup quarterback is junior Cornelius Gallon.

ON THE GROUND: The graduated Kenny Allen piled up 625 yards on 94 carries in 2005. Averaging 6.6 yards per carry, Allen will be a tough act to follow. But Marve and junior Lovell Jackson will try to fill the void.

Known primarily as a passer, Marve gained 309 yards on 44 attempts in 2005, averaging a respectable 7 yards per carry. Jackson has run a 4.45 40 and gained 338 yards rushing on 36 carries in 2005.

"Lovell has a very deceptive gait and doesn't appear to be moving too fast, but he is extremely quick once he sees the daylight," Weiner said.

Isaac Varon, a defensive back last year, will man the fullback position. Leading the way up front are returning offensive linemen Alex Townsend, Tyler Scarle and center Mike Walsh.

ON DEFENSE: Plant finished among the leaders in team defense in 2005, giving up 233.2 yards per game.

Weiner has enough returners to match or better that mark. Senior linebackers Brent Thomas and Matt Lerom should fit the bill.

"With Brent at middle linebacker and Matt on the outside, we feel good about containing the run and covering passes with these two experienced seniors," Weiner said.

In the secondary, seniors Chris Kuzdale and Luke Rorech will provide deep coverage. Lorech has track speed while Kuzdale is a big hitter with speed to cover deep routes. Tyler Evans, a strong, hard-to-block lineman, will lead the defensive charge at the line of scrimmage.

The key to the Panthers' success may well be a late-season district game with Jefferson that could determine homefield advantage in the first round of postseason play.