Who will hoist the Redman Cup trophy at the end of Friday night’s game?
No matter what happens with the FHSAA playoff race and the new RPI rankings system, Durant and Plant City will be extra motivated for Friday night’s big game at 1 Raider Place.
Nothing gets these schools going quite like the annual Battle for the Redman Cup and, though this hasn’t been the best year for either team (both sport a 4-5 overall record and are 2-2 in district play), fans who make the trek to PCHS that night can expect both sides to give it all they’ve got. Because both teams have a bye next week, this is also going to be their final game of the regular season.
Plant City has a 7-5 advantage in the record book since the trophy was introduced 12 years ago and won the Redman Cup in a 35-6 blowout last season. Recent history does favor the Cougars, who have won two of the last three rivalry games, but this Durant roster has very little in common with that upperclassman-heavy Cougars group that won back-to-back games by 10 or more points in 2016 and 2017. Some Plant City Raiders who were crucial to last year’s big win are still with the team, such as Zamir’ Knighten (109 rushing yards) and Mario Williams (four catches, 59 yards, two touchdowns), but most of that game’s top performers have since graduated.
From a numbers standpoint, you could argue the Raiders are most likely to keep the Redman Cup on campus for another year. Plant City’s offense is still dangerous when it gets clicking and it’s produced 98 points in two games since the Oct. 4 shutout loss to Armwood. Adding in defensive touchdowns, Plant City has outscored opponents 112-13 (one shutout) in the last two weeks. Strawberry Crest and Kathleen don’t have defenses anywhere near as stout as Armwood’s, but giving such an offense two games like this to get its groove back can never hurt. The Raiders have also outscored the Cougars by a large margin, 281 to 173, and have only been shut out once while Durant’s been held scoreless in three games.
Looking at that alone and counting Durant out of the game would be unwise, though, because the Cougars have been an almost completely different team on the road in 2019. Durant has a 4-1 record and has outscored opponents, 161-60, in other stadiums. That’s almost all of their total points scored for the season plus less than half of the total points the team’s allowed. Plant City, conversely, has a 1-3 record and has been outscored, 131-91, by opponents on its own turf. Fifty-seven percent of the 229 points Plant City has allowed this season were scored there. Durant’s defense has gained a reputation for its tenacity, even in the team’s losses, and that likely won’t change Friday night with a trophy to play for.
If Durant’s offense gets going the way it has in nearly every other away game it’s played in this season, the Cougars could hang in there with Plant City. They’ll look to dominate the game clock on the ground and likely won’t be shy about attempting fourth-down conversions: the fact they’d have to punt to either Williams or Reagan Ealy is even more reason for Durant to be as aggressive about going for it as ever.
But if the Raiders can find a way to keep a productive pass rush that’s been led by Bradley Guasto, Josh Cannon and the rest of Durant’s front seven from getting to quarterback Makenzie Kennedy, they could build upon the last two weeks and build a comfortable lead early on. Plant City’s passing attack, between Kennedy and Williams, has connected on 76 percent of its 17 pass attempts for 378 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. Plant City also went very heavy with the run last week, logging 29 carries against 10 passes, scored five times and picked up 245 yards (8.4 yards per carry) with Knighten’s 84 yards and two scores leading the way.
No matter which team you root for, this could be one of the most fun games to watch of the entire season.
THE OTHER GUYS
at Bloomingdale, 7:30 p.m.
Last week, the Chargers’ three-game scoreless streak grew by one when Durant came to Dover and picked up a 48-0 win.
This week, Crest will travel to Bloomingdale to take on a tough Bulls team coming off of a 36-0 shutout loss to Lakeland. It was the Bulls’ first loss since playing Armwood on Sept. 7 and, coincidentally, that was also a shutout loss at home. But when the Bulls are winning, they’re outscoring opponents at the rate of 32-14 per game. The Chargers will no doubt have their hands full at the home of the 7A-District 7 runners-up.
REDMAN CUP RIVALRY SERIES
2007: Plant City 14, Durant 13
2008: Durant 25, Plant City 6
2009: Plant City 27, Durant 24
2010: Plant City 27, Durant 21
2011: Plant City 43, Durant 12
2012: Durant 22, Plant City 7
2013: Plant City 14, Durant 13
2014: Durant 9, Plant City 7
2015: Plant City 21, Durant 16
2016: Durant 16, Plant City 6
2017: Durant 55, Plant City 41
2018: Plant City 35, Durant 6