Friday Night Feature Game: No. 3 Plant at No. 4 Hillsborough

By Chris Torello, Spectrum Sports Play-by-Play
Last Updated: Friday, August 25, 2017, 7:22 PM EDT



When: Friday, August 25, 2017 AT 7:30 p.m.

Where: Chelo Huerta Field, Hillsborough High School, 5000 N Central Ave, Tampa, Florida 33603

TV: Spectrum Sports (Channel 47 and HD 1147) and the Spectrum TV App

Coaches: PLANT –  Robert Weiner (14th season, 144-28-1); HILLSBOROUGH – Earl Garcia (25th season, 211-61)

About the matchup:

The Plant Panthers lose a lot from a 2016 run that ended with a loss in the 7A State Championship game against state powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas, 45-6. This was the lone defeat for the Panthers (13-1) but the real losses came through graduation. Robert Weiner called QB Dane Frantzen (Virginia Tech) one of the most competitive players he has ever been around at Plant. Frantzen left Plant as one of the most efficient guys under center, completing nearly 70% of his passes in 2016. Frantzen had 51 touchdowns and 4,037 total yards last season. He is not the only player that will be missed. Juwan Burgess, Whop Philyor and Thomas Allen are all up at Indiana in the Big Ten. Each was essential to the Panthers game plan. A big loss is also Ty Thompson; the senior running back tore his ACL two weeks ago in a scrimmage and will miss the season. He had nine rushing touchdowns last year, which were second only to Frantzen (21).

            However, Robert Weiner has reloaded and will have plenty of options on both sides of the ball. Sickles transfer QB Jordan McCloud (USF commit) continues a dual-threat role for the Panthers. Weiner says McCloud’s intelligence will allow him to use both his “Power-5 arm” and speed to keep opposing defenses honest. McCloud had over 2,300 yards and 27 total touchdowns at Sickles in 2016. It will be a crowded backfield with Jesuit transfer running back Leonard Parker will slide over to focus on offense after the injury to Thompson. The Carvajal brothers (Alex and Christian) along with Tobin Snead (who returns as the only Panther to have a rushing touchdown from last season) will be in the backfield. Penn State commit Judge Culpepper will be a dynamic tight end for the Panthers and Coach Weiner believes McCloud knows how to use him both in open space and in traffic.

            On defense, Culpepper will be a force all over that front line. He can play defensive end, tackle, or at the nose. He is the 21st ranked strong side defensive end in the nation for the 2018 recruiting class. Indiana commit Micah McFadden returns as the sack leader from 2016 with 14 sacks.      Weiner believes that McFadden is the “best defensive player in the state” and one of the most physical players he has seen in Florida in a long time. The secondary will include senior Clay Hancher at strong safety. Hancher will always be remembered for the blocked punt against Lakeland in last season’s Regional Semifinal game. The punt was recovered down at the Lakeland two-yard line and the Panthers punched in the game-winning score. Weiner always brings it up to Clay, “Hey, remember that blocked punt? That’s pretty cool.”

            Hillsborough returns its quarterback with junior Tyler Thomas. He missed some time last season due to injury. He has gained a lot of respect from his teammates for his physical toughness. Despite missing games, he still threw for over 1,000 yards in 2016. Earl Garcia says he believes Tyler will “have two dozen offers by the time the leaves change color,” this season. Thomas has some new weapons in the backfield with transfers Ty Spain (Jefferson) and Dada McGee (Wiregrass Ranch). Both are dynamic playmakers. Spain has the athleticism to play both sides of the ball (holding an offer from Kentucky to be a corner back) and McGee rushed for 1,063 yard and 11 touchdowns last season for the Bulls.

            On defense, the Terriers lose current Gator Zachary Carter. They will be headlined by top returning tackler Jahaad Malphus (64 tackles) and his fellow outside linebacker Robert Sherman. The two names to watch in the secondary are cornerbacks Ken Montgomery (UCLA commit) and Marterrence Holloway. Garcia calls Holloway a terrific player and says “if he was six feet tall instead of 5’6” he would be the best corner in the state.”


Three and Out:

1.  Oldest Rivalry in Hillsborough County – This meeting between the two programs dates back to 1928, and has been around for 16 U.S. Presidents. It was known as the “Turkey Day” classic on Thanksgiving and was the game to go to, considering they were the only two public high schools at the time in Hillsborough County.

2.  Panthers Streaking - Plant has won the last six meetings in this series. Hillsborough leads the overall series 42-32-7. The Terriers had a 12-game winning streak in the series between 1992 and 2005.

3.  Hanging Around – Earl Garcia and Robert Weiner are two of the longest-tenured coaches in the Tampa Bay area. Garcia is second with his 25 years at Hillsborough, sitting behind Lakeland Bill Castle and his 42 years on the job. Weiner’s 14 years has him sitting 4th on the list.