TAMPA — After the heroics from players all over the field, and penalties (more than 160 combined for both teams), and turnovers (three lost fumbles and an interception), sacks (five combined), near misses on pass plays and kicks, and questionable calls, Plant made the big plays in the final moments and came away with a 24-20 victory against Sickles.
The winning score didn't come until 24 seconds remained. That's when Panthers running back Patrick Brooks bulled 5 yards through a pile of Sickles defenders for the decisive TD.
“It was a battle of heavyweights,” Plant coach Robert Weiner said. “Whoever made the last punch at the end was going to be the winner.”
The final heroic roller-coaster ride began with 3 minutes left and the Panthers on their 22-yard line trailing 20-17.
The drama kicked in on the drive's first play when Plant converted a double pass play of 40 yards that ended up in the hands of Austin Hudson.
From there, Plant quarterback Colby Brown hooked up for a 20-yard pass play, Brooks had a 38-yard touchdown run called back on a holding penalty, Sickles was flagged for pass interference in the end zone, and then, finally, Brooks sealed it with his last TD run.
Before Brooks scored, Sickles (5-1) never trailed Plant (5-1-1), and through the first quarter the Gryphons appeared to have the upper hand with running back Ray Ray McCloud III breaking off long run after long run.
When the first half ended, McCloud had rushed 10 times for 119 yards, or more than Plant's total offensive output.
“(McCloud) is the type of player that every time he gets the ball in his hands you hold your breath,” Weiner said. “We made some adjustments ... but still, (McCloud) made it tough.”
McCloud ended with 20 carries for 160 yards and two TDs, both scored in the first half on runs of 10 and 12 yards.
Sickles 14 3 0 3 — 20
Plant 7 10 0 7 — 24
S — McCloud 10 run (Lezotte kick)
P — Rogers 75 kickoff return (Houston kick)
S — McCloud 12 run (Lezotte kick)
P — Hudson 38 pass from Brown (Houston kick)
S — FG Lezotte 30
P — FG Miller 41
S — FG Lezotte 41
P — Brooks 5 run (Houston kick)