COVID-19 robbed the Plant City Raiders of a proper offseason and forced them to start practicing way later than anyone would have liked, but minimal prep time still yielded maximum results in Friday’s 2020 opener at 1 Raider Place.
The Raiders hosted the Riverview Sharks and secured a running clock with a 44-7 lead just before halftime. That score would later hold through an uneventful second half for both teams.
Riverview started the game by kicking to Mario Williams, who returned it all the way into the Sharks’ red zone and helped set up the first touchdown of the year: a pitch from Nick Felice to Romello Jones, one new starter to another, that followed with Williams lining up under center for a quick lob to Aramoni Rhone for two more points. The Raiders defense forced a three-and-out and the Raiders offense got back on the scoreboard immediately with a deep double pass from Felice to Williams to Reagan Ealy along the home sideline, which happened with just more than nine minutes left in the first quarter. Williams quickly made it a 16-0 lead adding two more points with his legs.
Felice and Williams linked up twice more for a pair of touchdowns in the quarter — both from deep in the Raiders’ own territory — and Plant City suddenly had a 30-0 lead heading into the second quarter.
Riverview did find some good fortune then. The Sharks drove into Plant City territory and got into the Raiders’ red zone thanks to a defensive pass interference call, then scored with a short pass just under two minutes later.
Plant City put Carson Mohler in at quarterback on the next drive and, with help from Jones, the offense marched downfield to about the Sharks’ 39-yard line. Mohler found Jose Rodriguez in the end zone while under pressure for another PCHS touchdown.
The final scoring play of the game came with 30 seconds left in the first half, when Plant City running back Reggie Bush took a handoff inside Raider territory and burned the Riverview defense with one long dash to the end zone.
Also worth noting: Plant City now has an opponent next week after the Lakeland Dreadnaughts were forced to cancel their first two games of the season for COVID-19 reasons. The Raiders will now host the Manatee Hurricanes at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17.