Plant City dropped to 2-2 following their loss to the nationally-ranked Jesuit Tigers on Friday.
Plant City hosted the nationally-ranked Jesuit Tigers on Friday, falling by a final score of 35-13.
After a disappointing start to the season in which the Raiders fell to Tampa Bay Tech by a score of 42-0, Plant City bounced back strong with two shutout victories of their own in a 21-0 win over Jefferson and a 35-0 win over Riverview. Despite the lopsided score, the Raiders team that played Jesuit this past week was a completely different team than the one that took on the Titans a month prior. In fact, Plant City was trailing by just nine points in the fourth quarter, with the ball inside of the Jesuit red zone and a chance to make it a one possession game.
“I think that our kids are bought in to what we want to do, I think there’s growth, I think they’re taking this week-by-week and learning from mistakes and that’s what we want to see,” head coach James Booth said. “We want to see progress through the season. I told them after that we have two weeks before we get into district play and those are the games that really matter. What I was happy to see was our kids fight and compete and play hard against [a team like Jesuit.] Now we have two more games to kind of fix those mental mistakes and assignment errors, we want to be flawless going into district play.”
Plant City won the opening coin toss and deferred, giving Jesuit the ball to start the game. It was a long, methodical drive to open the game for the Tigers but they ultimately took an early lead with a one-yard touchdown run from junior running back Joquez Smith.
The Raiders answered with an impressive first drive of their own, marching down the field and into Jesuit territory before defensive back Wade Woodaz hauled in an interception for the Tigers and gave Jesuit the ball back. A few plays later, set up just outside of the Plant City redzone, Jesuit made a mistake of their own as a botched snap on third down left them settling for a punt.
The Raiders notched a single first down on the next drive before sending the punt team out when Woodaz struck again. Plant City’s punt was blocked, ultimately recovered by Woodaz and returned for a touchdown. The two point conversion was good and the Tigers had built a 15-0 lead early into the second quarter.
Receiver Sincere Williams immediately put Plant City in a solid starting position with a kickoff return to the Raiders’ 40 yard line. Quarterback Clint Danzey then completed a pass over the middle and a personal foul penalty on Jesuit added 15 yards and moved the Raiders over midfield. A few plays later Danzey found Jaylen Gadson on an out route to the left sideline and Gadson was off, breaking one tackle and streaking down the field for a long touchdown reception. The extra point attempt was blocked but the Raiders had cut the Jesuit lead to 15-6.
Jesuit had a short field goal blocked by Plant City on the next drive and despite a 31-yard completion to Williams, getting Plant City out from the shadow of their own goalpost, the Raiders punted back to the Tigers and left them with a short field. Jesuit took advantage on another short touchdown run from Smith and extended their lead to 22-6 with 2:42 left in the half.
In their two-minute drill the Raiders moved right down the field with a big run from Reggie Bush Jr. that moved Plant City over midfield and a catch and run over the middle from Williams that moved them into the red zone. With just seven second remaining in the half, Danzey rolled out to his right and fired a strike to Gasdon in the corner of the end zone, his second score of the night, bringing Plant City back to within nine at 22-13.
“We knew that there were going to be some shots that we wanted to take advantage of,” Booth said. “Sincere’s doing a great job, really coming along, and a couple of our receivers are injured so we’re relying heavily on him. And Jaylen Gadson, I thought he made a tremendous catch on the sideline and then scores in the corner of the end zone going into the half, he’s stepping up. I think Clint’s progress through these four games has been tremendous. He’s understanding where to go with the football a lot better and just experience for him is going to help out a lot.”
The game then remained without another score until the fourth, and not to go without mention, Plant City’s defense played fast and stood tall repeatedly, holding the Tigers to just 15 points through three quarters. Despite one special teams mishap that resulted in a Jesuit scoop and score early, the Raiders’ defense continued to give the team an opportunity to stay within reach late.
With a touch of familiarity, defensive coordinator Kyle Jones joined Plant City’s staff in 2020 after previously serving as a linebackers coach at Jesuit.
“Our defense, again, is starting to buy in and understand what we want to do,” Booth said. “We were disguising some things up on them and they were flying to the football. They’re starting to understand and I think that we’ve kind of got our pieces in place where those guys can really focus on what their job is, handle that task and do it as fast as they can. They played tremendous tonight, gave us opportunities and put us in position offensively to make this a ballgame.”
Still down just nine, Plant City was threatening early in the fourth quarter when misfortune struck. As the Raiders moved into the Jesuit red zone, Danzey was forced to leave the game with cramps, one of several players to go down with dehydration issues throughout the contest. Following two plays out of the wildcat formation with defensive back/wide receiver Romello Jones under center, the Raiders were quickly backed up to third-and-11 before Danzey re-entered the game. But an eight-yard scramble on third down and a failed conversion on fourth-and-short ended the Raiders’ scoring opportunity.
As momentum fell for Plant City, Jesuit began to pull away late as they tacked on two more touchdowns late in the game and closed out the 35-13 victory, moving to 5-0 on the season as Plant City fell to 2-2 with two more games until district play begins against Durant on Oct. 15.
The Raiders will head to Chamberlain next Friday as they take on the Chiefs.
“I thought that our kids played hard,” Booth said. “Talking to them after the game I thought that they competed well. We had the ball inside the red zone, kind of second guessing myself, should I have kicked the field goal to make it a one-score game? We went for it on fourth, had an open slant and just missed him and got sacked. I think that if we score there then that kind of changes the game, it’s a one-score game going into the fourth quarter… But again, I thought that our kids played really hard. I thought that they played tough, they hung tough and we had ourself in a position to win it.”