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December 16, 2011
When the Plant Panthers and Miramar Patriots face off for the state's first ever 8A state title, the big game experience factor will certainly not be an issue when it comes to these two teams.
Miramar is playing for a chance to win its second state title in three years, while Plant is making its fifth state title appearance in six years.
"Five state title appearances in six years, it never gets old." Plant head coach Robert Weiner said.
Plant fell to St. Thomas Aquinas in last year's Class 5A championship but won the 5A title in 2009 and won the 4A title in both 2008 and 2006.
This Saturday, Plant will be facing one of the most explosive teams in not only the state but in the country in Miramar who are led by running back tandem that many have labeled as "Thunder and Lighting."
But it's not just these two guys that has made the Patriots such a special group of kids.
The Patriots suffered an offseason tragedy when offensive lineman Isaiah Laurencin collapsed in the middle of a summer conditioning drill, eventually passing away.
"We've fought through a lot of adversity this season, but here at Miramar it's a brotherhood ." Head coach Damon Cogdell said.
One of the main reasons behind the success of Miramar has been defensive back Tracy Howard who has not only been one of the teams most dynamic players but he also brings that senior leadership that every championship team must possess.
"The leadership of Tracy has helped a lot; he's our vocal leader on and off the field." Cogdell said.
Quarterback Camren Hudge complements the backfield of Miramar that has presented problems for teams all season long.
"They can come at you at from every angle." Weiner said.
Much like Miramar, Plant prides themselves on being more like a family than a football team.
Plant has built a tradition of grooming some of most talented quarterbacks for the next level. Quarterbacks that have brought the program unparalleled success the past couple of years.
This year, the tradition of Plant quarterbacks has continued with seniorJames Few who waited his turn and has now brought the Panthers back to Orlando.
"There is a great comradery with all of the quarterbacks here at Plant." Weiner said.
The one aspect of the Plant offense that sets themselves apart from other teams is their ability to distribute the ball to not just one or two players.
The Panthers have four different receivers with more at least three touchdowns on the season led by Austin Aikens who has 767 yards and 11 touchdowns on the season.
Plant running backs Antonio Crawford and Wesley Bolluck have rushed for 1,703 yards and 16 touchdowns to make the Panthers that much more versatile.
With a victory Friday night, Miramar will have an argument to finish as one of the top teams in the country.
"It's a great honor to be so highly ranked nationally, it would mean a lot to the city of Miramar." Cogdell said.
But for Plant and Coach Weiner, the talent of Miramar will not come as a shock. Weiner he feels his players are up to the challenge.
"Our guys are excited. With the new 8A format it has allowed to go up against teams that you always hear and read about, this will be a great game."
FlaVarsity Outloook: The Patriots have been playing inspired football ever since week one. The sudden and tragic death of OL Isaiah Laurencin has galvanized this team and given them a sense of purpose. That and the fact that Miramar has more weapons offensively than most teams and a lock-down defense.
Plant is, well, Plant. Well coached, disciplined and fundamentally sound. QB James Few has come into his own since winning the starting job during the pre-season and other than a 21-0 loss to Armwood, the Panthers have dominated every opponent. It's the old adage of 'something's gotta give'.
Plant will try to slow down Miramar, but do the Panthers have the speed in the secondary to keep up with Lewis, Mathis and company? Miramar will try to dominate the offensive line of Plant, which gives Few time to look for weapons like Adkins and others.
Prediction: Miramar 26, Plant 21