TAMPA — With one man to beat to complete the longest possible kickoff return a Florida high school football player can have, Plant senior Alex “Buda” Jackson likely never saw Newsome’s only remaining threat — kicker Austin Cobb.
That’s because Jackson had nine of his teammates blocking in front of him.
Jackson galloped past the Dad’s Stadium student section on his way to a 99-yard kickoff return, the last of his three first-half touchdowns. Plant (6-1-1, 3-0 Class 8A-District 6) went on to record a convincing 30-14 victory in its final home game of the regular season.
“That was the most perfect we ever ran it,” Jackson said of the kick return, which began inside the 1-yard line and would have been ruled a touchback if he was standing any farther back. “It seemed like nobody (for Newsome) wanted to get in front of me.”
And so it went not just on special teams, but on offense and defense as well for the Panthers, who dominated the line of scrimmage throughout. Newsome came into the game averaging 272 rushing yards per game, but had 143 on Friday, and just 45 at halftime.
“Their rushing attack is so multi-faceted, but what we worked on is the penetration from our guys had to be there,” said Plant coach Robert Weiner. “The front four guys did a great job.”
Offensively, Panthers senior quarterback Colby Brown was efficient, completing 10 of his first 12 passes, including two TD throws to Jackson, who had 52 receiving yards. Brown finished with 163 yards passing and had the final Plant TD on a 1-yard sneak in the fourth.
Patrick Brooks paced the running game with 117 yards on nine carries.
Plant built a 17-0 lead before Newsome (4-4, 1-2) recorded a first down. And when the Wolves finally did have momentum, scoring on the first of Bruce Anderson’s two rushing touchdowns, Jackson’s kick return squashed it immediately.
Trailing 24-7 in the final minute of the half, Wolves quarterback Cole Schaller hit Tyson Mills on a 30-yard pass down to the Plant 2. But Newsome lost 7 yards on their next two plays before missing a field goal, and the Wolves never threatened Plant’s lead again.
The Panthers find themselves as the lone 3-0 team in 8A-6 thanks to previously 0-2 Alonso defeating previously 2-0 Wharton.
Plant faces Wharton next week and Alonso the following week as it tries to clinch the district championship.
Newsome 0 7 0 7 — 14
Plant 10 14 0 6 — 30
P — FG Miller 37
P — Jackson 2 pass from C. Brown (Miller kick)
P — Jackson 10 pass from C. Brown (Miller kick)
N — Anderson 31 run (Cobb kick)
P — Jackson 99 kickoff return (Miller kick)
P — C. Brown 1 run (run failed)
N — Anderson 10 run (Cobb kick)