Plant vs Robinson | Tampa Tribune’s Game of the Week
Where: Dad’s Stadium; When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
South Tampa bragging rights and a trophy that’s sat in Plant coach Robert Weiner’s office for six-straight years. The last time Robinson toppled the Panthers was 2004, Weiner’s first season as the head coach. One of the oldest rivalries in the county remains fierce with homemade mocking t-shirts and team logo decals placed in not so nice places to prove it. With Robinson coach Mike DePue planning to retire in two years, this will be his last chance to snag a win at Dad’s Stadium.
Robinson: Senior all-around athlete Byron Pringle averages 34 yards a return on kickoffs and has returned two for touchdowns. The Panthers allow an average of more than 25 yards per kickoff return and recently gave up a 99 yard return for a touchdown against Armwood.
Plant: The Panthers have allowed an average of only 11 points per game in eight victories, including five games where they gave up seven or less points. Robinson averaged 37 points a game in its eight wins.
KEEP AN EYE ON
Robinson: Vic Rivera, defensive back. Rivera leads the Knights with three interceptions and the secondary with 30 tackles. The senior got one of his picks in the playoff-clinching victory against Lakewood and another in the regular-season opening victory against Jefferson.
Plant: Mike Tate, linebacker. Tate leads the Panthers defense, which has allowed 12 points per game, with 113 tackles and also has six sacks and one interception. Tate has continued in a long tradition of stealth Plant linebackers who has a nose for the ball and a great feel for the game.
When Robinson Has The Ball: The Knights produce an average of nearly 275 offensive yards a game, mostly on the ground. Leading rusher, junior running back Martin Ruiz, and freshman running back Michael Duclos help Robinson average 186.9 rushing yards per game. Junior Vidal Woodruff (564 yards, 10 touchdowns, two interceptions), who took over the starting position earlier in the season, has proven he can mix things up and has several go-to guys, including leading receiver Pringle (391 yards, five touchdowns) and Ethan Kindle (168 yards, three touchdowns). The Knights passing game will have to contend with a fast and physical secondary led by Plant strong safety Drew Madhu and cornerback Antonio Crawford.
When Plant Has The Ball: Junior running back Wesley Bullock (547 rushing and 344 receiving yards, eight total touchdowns) provides the versatility to allow the Panthers to balance their offensive attack. Bullock, Plant’s leading rusher, and Crawford help the Panthers average 182.4 yards on the ground. Senior quarterback James Few (1,568 yards, 15 touchdowns, seven interceptions) has gained momentum and confidence each week and recently received his first college offer (Cornell). Senior wide receiver Austin Aikens’ impressive vertical leap makes him an appealing target. When Plant does air it out, they’ll have to contend with Rivera, Pringle and Kindle in the secondary.
“There have been some memorable games over the last couple of years and this will be my last shot over at Dad’s. This is it in front of that climate. It’s a playoff atmosphere where the crowd is chaotic, the crowd on both sides are veracious. It’s a lot of fun. I think it’s great we play them just before the playoffs because it’s a playoff atmosphere.” Robinson coach Mike DePue
“The one thing, you want to get out of it healthy, but at the same time, I think the kind of battle and the kind of intensity it takes to really, really succeed in a game like this is the kind of intensity and the kind of physical play we’re going to have to have the next week in the playoffs. I always thought it was a huge advantage of both Robinson and Plant to play this game because I think we’ll both be better teams after this.” Plant coach Robert Weiner