TAMPA — It took an unorthodox rushing juggernaut to do it, but it finally happened: For the first time since 2004, a team came into Dad’s Stadium in the playoffs and defeated a Plant football team.
Apopka’s single-wing offense ran away with a 45-29 victory, earning a trip to next week’s Class 8A state final.
For Plant, the defeat ended its season with an 11-2-1 record and snapped a winning streak of 21 playoff victories at home, including five in state semifinals.
Apopka (13-1) definitely left an impression after lining up with three backs and hiking it to one of three, who then might run up the middle, hand it off to a reversing wing man, or take it around the end. In between all that there was lots of spinning and juking and delayed handoffs.
“It’s not only a difficult offense to defend, but it’s an offense we haven’t seen, so we couldn’t look back on anything and pull from it,” Plant coach Robert Weiner said. “On top of that, (Apopka) executed very well and played with a tremendous amount of passion. (Apopka) is a very good team.”
The Blue Darters’ offense — which set a state regular-season scoring record with 529 points and a single-game record with 807 yards (including 668 on the ground) — racked up 397 rushing yards against the Panthers, with 267 coming in the second half.
For a while it looked like Plant might pull off another unlikely victory at Dad’s Stadium after holding the Blue Darters to 14 points and 165 total yards in the first half.
The Panthers also gained life just before halftime when they drove 74 yards and scored a touchdown with less than 20 seconds left in the half when quarterback Colby Brown hit Alex “Buda” Jackson in the corner of the end zone on a 9-yard fade route.
Apopka, however, shifted into a higher gear in the second half, seeming to wear down Plant’s defenders, who had to play the majority of the game without linebacker Andrew Beck, a University of Texas commitment who limped off the field with a re-aggravated ankle injury he sustained last week.
In the second half, Apopka ripped off runs of 15, 17, 22, 29 and 51 yards and had an 82-yard touchdown run called back on a holding penalty.
Apopka’s rushing attack was almost matched by Plant’s passing as Brown completed 27 of 34 passes for 364 yards and four touchdowns, including three to Jackson and a 54 yarder to Cameron Winter.
With 724 points, Apopka needs 22 to break the state record for points in a season, which Jefferson set in 2010 when it went 15-0 and won the state title.
Apopka 7 7 10 21 — 45
Plant 0 7 7 15 — 29
A - Darlington 5 run (Smith kick)
A - Cox 11 run (Smith kick)
P - Jackson 9 pass from Brown (Miller kick)
A - FG Smith 29
A - Darlington 1 run (Smith kick)
P - Winter 54 pass from Brown (Miller kick)
A - Simmons 22 run (Smith kick)
P - Jackson 11 pass from Brown (Miller kick)
A - Simmons 32 run (Smith kick)
A - Jackson 30 interception return (Smith kick)
P - Jackson 21 pass from Brown (Reed pass from Brown)