The Raiders are looking to get back above .500 on Friday night.
Note: Hillsborough County Public Schools confirmed on Twitter Wednesday afternoon that, due to school closings Tuesday for Hurricane Dorian, football games will be moved to either Saturday or Monday to give all teams an extra day of practice. Because school closed Tuesday, the teams could not hold practices. Plant City’s game was moved to 7 p.m. this Saturday and Durant will now visit Blake at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 9.
Plant City’s brutal 2019 schedule doesn’t get any easier this Saturday night.
The Raiders are set to host Gaither, which is riding high after scoring a 35-28 win over Plant at home last week. Plant City, meanwhile, traveled to Tampa Bay Tech and took a 25-14 loss the team is looking to rebound from.
Plant City’s offense wasn’t nearly as successful against Tech as it was against Jesuit in Week 1, as it generated 215 total yards of offense and one touchdown on that side of the ball. Plant City’s most successful drive of the night came in the second quarter and ended with a one-yard rushing touchdown by quarterback Makenzie Kennedy that, coupled with Austin Smith’s point-after, gave the Raiders their first and only lead of the game. But that 7-6 score wouldn’t last through the end of the quarter, as Tech put two more touchdowns on the board before going into the locker room. The Titans added another touchdown in the third quarter for good measure, and the only other thing the Raiders could get going in their favor was a blocked punt that got returned for a touchdown with about 11 minutes left in the game.
Though the Titans did many things well defensively — they picked off Kennedy twice, held him to 28 passing yards and forced him to try and beat them with his legs — their most impressive feat of defensive strength was erasing Mario Williams from the game. Williams was held without a reception, though not for lack of effort, as Tech’s defense keyed in on him all night. Zamir’ Knighten did gain 101 rushing yards for Plant City and at one point broke off a 54-yard run, but the entire offensive performance at large was one the Raiders probably want to move on from as soon as possible.
History is very much on the Raiders’ side in this series. Plant City is 5-1 in its last six meetings with Gaither and only scored fewer than 20 points once in that time. However, the team’s last meeting resulted in a 38-11 loss at Gaither in 2014. Five years have brought a ton of changes to both programs, complete overhauls from the roster to the coaching staffs, so no one here is about to rest on the laurels of history going into this game.
If the Raiders can shake off last week’s performance, the fans at 1 Raider Place could be in for a shootout. This team is not at all far removed from its 37-point outing at Jesuit and the offense in particular has proven time and again to be difficult to stop once a rhythm is established. Plant City’s got weapons and knows how to use them. Getting something more going on offense, especially if it involves finding ways to help Williams get open, is crucial if the Raiders are to beat Gaither this week.
The Cowboys now have a pair of wins over Jefferson and Plant and can say they’ve done what no one in the county’s been able to do in six seasons: beat the Panthers. Gaither hung in there with Plant throughout the game and finally pulled ahead for good in the fourth quarter, taking a two-score lead with two minutes left and denying the Panthers the time they would have needed for a comeback win.
Senior quarterback Tony Bartalo leads a Gaither offense that’s been wildly successful when it takes to the skies. Bartalo has eight touchdown passes through two games (an even 4-4 split), and the Cowboys finished with five total touchdown passes last week thanks to a trick play that saw wideout Jordan Oladokun hit Davion Knighton for a 76-yard score. If there’s a weakness in a team’s secondary, the Cowboys have both the athletes and the arm talent to expose it in 2019.
Plant City’s defense has given up 29 and 25 points, respectively, in two games in 2019. Unless something drastic happens, that unit will have its hands full this week.
OTHER AREA ACTION
at Blake, 7 p.m. (Sept. 9)
The Durant Cougars hung tough in last week’s game against Riverview, but the Sharks turned their fortunes around in the second half and got out of Durant with a 13-12 win.
The Cougars were in near-complete control of the game clock, but couldn’t always capitalize on their chances in Riverview territory. This was especially true of the second half, when Durant was held scoreless and had several fourth-down conversion attempts shut down one way or another. Elian Gonzalez and Collin Cole scored Durant’s touchdowns, but none of the Cougars’ extra point conversion attempts were successful.
Next up for Durant is a trip to Blake High School to take on a Yellow Jackets team coming off of its bye week. In Week 1, Blake went to Riverview and got into a high-scoring duel with the Sharks. Blake scored 26 points in the effort but were outgunned by Riverview, who scored 37. The Yellow Jackets did not post stats from the game to MaxPreps.com.
Durant will need to work on its post-touchdown point attempts and special teams (back-to-back field goal blocks doomed the Cougars in the end of last week’s game) before district play starts up with Bloomingdale at home on Sept. 13.
Strawberry Crest had a similar Week 2 situation as Durant, having also held a lead at halftime only for its opponent to come back in the second half. This was a much more offense-friendly game, however, with a 37-21 final in King’s favor.
The Chargers held a 14-6 lead over King going into halftime. The Lions’ offense woke up and kept things close for a while, with both teams trading scores during the third quarter. Crest’s 21-19 lead in the third quarter was its last of the game, as the Lions ended up outscoring them 19-7 in that quarter and added 12 more points in the fourth.
A bye week gives the Chargers some much-needed time to reflect on what’s working and how best to keep that going. And no one can accuse the Chargers of doing nothing right in 2019: Crest has scored 41 points through its two games. The team scored 43 points in 10 games in 2018. Things are definitely getting better out there in Dover.
Kathleen is up next at the Crest, and the teams’ Sept. 13 meeting will kick off district play for both schools. The Red Devils are currently 0-2 and have been blown out in both games: first a 57-7 loss on the road to a Lake Wales team that’s spent 2019 terrorizing Polk County opponents, then a 37-17 home loss to Lake Gibson last week. Ridge Community, which just took a 62-0 loss to Lake Wales, will host Kathleen this Friday.