Fourteen unanswered points for Plant City in the second half meant the Raiders don’t have to make any plans to move the Redman Cup trophy back to Durant.
The Raiders won the 2019 Battle for the Redman Cup, 35-14, on their home turf. It’s the first time the Raiders have won back-to-back Cup games since the three-game win streak between 2009 and 2011.
Plant City received the opening kickoff and steadily drove from their own 28-yard line into Durant territory within a few minutes, catching one break when Mario Williams made a play on fourth down to keep the drive alive and another when the Cougars were flagged for a facemark on Melek Ford in their own red zone. Quarterback Makenzie Kennedy ran nine yards from Durant’s 12-yard line to set up Zamir’ Knighten’s three-yard rushing touchdown with 7:11 left in the quarter. The Raiders got the ball right back when Durant fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Keyshawn Green scooped it up around the Durant 22. A few plays later, Marquies Gines caught a short pass in the middle of the field and took it 20 yards for another Raiders touchdown.
Facing a 14-0 deficit with 5:58 left in the first quarter, Durant clawed away at the Plant City defense with a lot of runs by Collin Cole, Marcus Miguele and Elian Gonzalez, plus several personal foul penalties against the Raiders. Plant CIty’s second personal foul put the Cougars at the PCHS 15, from which Gonzalez fought his way up to the goal line and Eli Reed finished the job by punching in Durant’s first touchdown of the evening with 1:31 left in the quarter.
Plant City was the first team to score in the second quarter, thanks to some crafty play action by Kennedy and Williams picking up 30 yards on the catch for another touchdown. But Durant answered on the next drive, which started with about 7:40 left in the half and ended with 25 seconds left. Reed successfully pulling off a fake punt for a first down at the Durant 44 gave the Cougars a shot of energy that carried on through the rest of the drive. Miguele’s legs helped get the Cougars from there to Plant City’s 11 over time, then his arm helped get the Cougars within one possession when he sailed a pass to Reed in the end zone to set the score at 21-14. The Raiders took a big shot downfield to try and score before the end of the half, but a Kennedy pass intended for Williams in the end zone ended up in the arms of Ashton Kirkland.
Things looked interesting for the Raiders in the start of the second half, as Williams tweaked his ankle on the opening kickoff to Durant and went to the sideline on his own power. Plant City was able to stop Durant’s first drive quickly, though, and the Raiders built on their lead on the ensuing drive. A penalty on Durant following a Kennedy run helped get the Raiders to Durant’s 14 and Reagan Ealy caught a touchdown pass with 5:50 left in the quarter to give the Raiders some insurance. Plant City once again got the ball right back on a fumble during the kickoff, but that drive got as far as Durant’s 15 before a slew of penalties — including one on a Kennedy hurdle — pushed it back to midfield.
The final scoring play of the game came in the fourth quarter, when Romello Jones followed up a Kennedy run to the Durant goal line with a plunge across it for the touchdown with 8:06 left in the game.
Plant City’s 21-point lead proved insurmountable, though not for a lack of effort on the Cougars’ part. Durant got to Plant City’s 15-yard line on the next drive, but a pair of runs and a pair of deep pass attempts didn’t work out in the Cougars’ favor and they turned the ball over on downs with 5:20 to go.
In other area action, Strawberry Crest went to Bloomingdale and lost, 60-6.