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By JEREMY RASMUSSEN, Times staff
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 2, 2001
TAMPA -- In a battle of teams who have not traditionally factored into the state playoff picture, Plant earned a wild 4-3 win over Wharton in the Class 3A, District 10 final at Chamberlain on Thursday.
Plant (12-2-1) finished in last place in its district last season and has not made it to regionals in six years. Wharton (10-4-3), meanwhile, is making its first-ever regional playoff appearance by virtue of its runner-up finish.
First-year Plant coach Dennis Derflinger said he was not surprised by the team's impressive turnaround.
"I told the kids the district championship was one of our goals this year," he said. "When they came out at the beginning and I saw their fitness, how hard they worked and competed, I knew we would do well."
The Panthers were playing without starting keeper Loren Shumard after he received a red card in Friday's 3-2 Western Conference final loss to Gaither. In his stead, Ryan Agostinis came up with several big saves.
The Panthers took a 1-0 lead when Bobby Boswell took a back-heel pass from Don Griewe on the end line and blasted it in. Five minutes later, they went up 2-0 when Lucas Jewett knocked in a long throw-in from Graham Jankura.
Wharton got on the board 25 seconds before halftime when Shane Provost chased down a floating cross from Matt Klag and poked it past Agostinis.
After intermission, Wharton came out with a flurry. But Plant took a 3-1 lead on Chris Cheek's finish off Jankura's corner kick.
With 10 minutes to play, Wharton pulled within 3-2 when Alex Rangels' cross to the near post was mishandled by Agostinis, and Jon Burklo was there to collect the easy tap-in.
Plant answered again as Cheek finished on a perfect pass from Boswell. In the final minute, Wharton pulled close once again as Shaun Padilla headed in a cross from Provo. "It's frustrating because we were so close," Wharton coach Mike Rowan said. "Our kids don't know how to win the big games yet because we've never been in a championship before. But I really believe this is the first of many district finals we'll be in."
-- JEREMY RASMUSSEN
Brandon and Riverview will meet in Sarasota tonight in the final. Riverview advanced with a 2-1 win over host Sarasota while Brandon defeated Charlotte 3-1 in the other semifinal.
-- TIMES STAFF