TAMPA — Plant coach Robert Weiner touched on the past Friday night after his Panthers’ 49-30 defeat to Venice in a scoring duel involving Class 7A playoff teams from 2018.
It remains to be seen if history repeats itself.
“Three of the four times we’ve won the state championship, we lost the kickoff classic by over 14 points,” Weiner said. “Twice, we’ve lost by over 30.
”(Friday), even though it was Venice, it’s still a kickoff classic. So it’s about learning, and it’s about figuring out what guys we have and where they should go. We learned a lot."
Plant had to play catchup most of the night. The Panthers’ defense yielded 513 yards, and allowed three fourth-downs conversions ― two leading to scores.
Venice, which lost to eventual state runnerup Fort Lauderdale-St. Thomas Aquinas 38-18 in the 2018 state semifinals, had a balanced attack with 276 yards rushing and 237 through the air.
The Indians’ major weapons were running back Brian Taylor (210 yards, 13 carries) and wide receiver Malachi Wideman (186 yards, six receptions). Both players scored twice.
“We just got to the point where if we could stop them and score once, we were within one score. . . and then the game changes," Weiner said.
Locked in a 7-all tie early in the second quarter, Plant fell behind for good when Wideman pulled in a 75-yard TD pass from Nico Dalla Costa. A 30-yard field goal by Trevor Haire pulled the Panthers within 14-10, but Venice answered with two TDs — the second on a 28-yard run by Taylor on the first play from scrimmage after intermission.
Plant had 360 yards on offense with quarterback Tucker Gleason accounting for two TDs, one through the air and the other on the ground. He finished with 185 yards in total offense.
“I felt like we kept poking away over and over again,” Weiner said. “I said to Tucker earlier in the game this feels like the Lakeland game, our playoff game last year. This was the exact score of the Lakeland game.”
Hayden Reed scored twice for Plant, and Christian Carvajal added a touchdown.