Bruised, and perhaps mentally frustrated after a rough preseason loss last Saturday, Plant High’s football team loaded up its buses and traveled more than 400 miles to play Thursday night at Tyrone, Ga., against Sandy Creek High, the No. 5-ranked team in the nation according MaxPreps.
A tough order by any standard.
To the Panthers’ credit, they hung tough, leading through much of the first half, early in the second half, and tying it late in the third quarter at 27 — which after a rocky, hard-fought fourth quarter — ended up the final score.
Due to a school-night curfew rule, the game was called with 1:50 remaining in the fourth quarter at 11:30 p.m. It was the second game of a doubleheader that began about 8:30 p.m.
Official final: Sandy Creek 27, Plant 27.
The Panthers (0-0-1) took the early initiative with a 6-0 lead midway through the first half when Colby Brown connected with Clark Miller for the first of the quarterback’s three touchdown passes.
Plant then took a 12-0 lead early in the second quarter when Brown hit Austin Hudson on a 19-yard touchdown pass.
But Sandy Creek, like Plant, remained undaunted. The Patriots kept attacking with quarterback Cole Garvin and speedy running backs Eric Swinney and Delvin Weems, whose touchdown runs put them up 13-12 at the half.
Reems ran for 181 yards and three scores on nine carries for the Patriots (0-0-1), who came into the meeting on a 39-game regular-season winning streak.
Plant’s Jordan Reed took the second-half kickoff back 96 yards before Weems’ TD runs of 6 and 70 put Sandy Creek up 27-19.
Plant answered Sandy Creek’s assault with a 6-yard touchdown toss to Fletcher Barnes and followed with a successful 2-point conversion. And at the end of the third quarter, Sandy Creek, a defending state champ with a 15-0 record, found itself tied at 27 with the Panthers.
The Panthers had a chance with less than 3 minutes remaining to take the lead, but a 34-yard field attempt was blocked.
Plant played without its top two running backs, Patrick Brooks (hip flexor) and Tykese Keaton-Baldwin (concussion).
Plant 6 6 15 0 — 27
Sandy Creek 0 13 14 0 — 27
P-Miller 19 pass from Brown (kick failed)
P-Hudson 18 pass from Brown (run failed)
S-Weems 47 run (Davenport kick)
S-Swinney 6 run (kick failed)
P-Reed 96 kickoff return (Houston kick)
S-Weems 6 run (Davenport kick)
S-Weems 70 run (Davenport kick)
P-Barnes 6 pass from Brown (Jackson pass from Brown)