Plant (Tampa, Fla.)
High School's football team defeated Robinson (Tampa, Fla.)
for the eighth straight time on Friday night.
But this was hardly like the previous seven. Plant won by the skin of its teeth 26-24.
A 12-yard touchdown run Aaron Banks
with 2 minutes, 43 seconds remaining proved to the be winning score and the Plant defense held on from there.
The two top-ranked teams in Tampa-St. Pete met in the regular-season finale for both squads and although these rivals are located less than five miles apart, it was a non-district game.
Plant (9-1), the defending Class 8A state champion, had won its last seven games against Robinson by an average margin of 32 points. Robinson (9-1) needed the victory for its first undefeated regular season since 1963.
Robinson found itself with an early decision to make, facing a 4th-and-2 from the 14-yard line with 8:08 left in the first quarter. Coach Mike Depue decided to roll the dice and Zain Gilmore
hit Justin Madison
over the middle for not just a first down — but a touchdown. The extra-point attempt was blocked, but the Knights led 6-0.
Plant made its way downfield, thanks largely to a 43-yard pass from Banks to Tristan Cooper
, but Robinson's defense held strong, forcing the Panthers into a William Few
31-yard field goal, which cut the lead to 6-3.
Banks and Cooper struck again, this time on a 41-yard pass, to set up a Wesley Bullock
4-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter. That gave Plant a 10-6 lead, and it marked the first time all season that Robinson had trailed.
After a missed field goal by Robinson, Plant extended its lead to 17-6 with a 20-yard touchdown pass from Banks to Andrew Beck
with 1:41 left in the half.
Just when it seemed as if the momentum had been seized by Plant, Robinson answered with a 70-yard touchdown run by Gilmore. The quarterback also ran the ball in for the two-point conversion, cutting the Plant lead to 17-14.
Just before halftime Banks completed another long pass, 41 yards to Bullock, setting up a first-and-goal with nine seconds left. Few knocked in the 27-yard field goal and the Panthers went into the locker room with a 20-14 lead.
Plant missed a scoring opportunity early in the third, missing a 23-yard field goal following a 61-yard Banks run.
Robinson closed within three points, 20-17, after a Cody Hodgens
25-yard field goal with 7:06 left in the third.
With 8:15 to go in the game, Robinson reclaimed the lead when Gilmore punched it home from 1-yard out. The scoring drive was set up by several key runs from Martin Ruiz
Plant took over, setting up Banks' game-winner.
Plant has gone 8-0 since a crushing 33-3 loss to nationally ranked Curtis (River Ridge, La.) at the Louisiana Superdome on Labor Day weekend.
Bullock – who was limited by injury in the Curtis game – has emerged of late, coming into the game having rushed for more than 100 yards in four of the last six games, including a 108-yard effort on only six carries in a 51-20 blowout of Bloomingdale (Valrico) last week.
Plant opens up the playoffs next Friday against Freedom (Orlando, Fla.) while Robinson will face Atlantic (Port Orange, Fla.).