Plant is back in the state final for the first time since 2011 but the Panthers opponent is two-time defending champion St. Thomas Aquinas. The two teams meet on Friday night at 8 p.m. ET at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.
The Raiders (11-2) are looking for its third straight Class 7A state title and 10th in school history. Plant (13-0) has four championships on the shelf with the latest coming in 2011 when Robert Weiner’s team went 15-1.
St. Thomas Aquinas is ranked No. 8 in the nation by MaxPreps and fresh off a convincing 46-8 win over Venice in the state semifinal.
The last time these two programs met came back in 2010 when the Raiders won 29-7 in the 5A state title in Orlando.
Fast forward about six years and St. Thomas Aquinas and Plant will convene again. On the line, is championship No. 10 for the Raiders and title No. 5 for the Panthers.
Aftert getting past visiting Lee 27-19 a week ago, it was clear how exhausted Plant really was. But all the hard work and dedication is showing on this team as each week progresses.
Senior quarterback and lifelong Plant fan Dane Frantzen accounted for all four touchdowns in the win over Lee. After the game, he said he couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that his team was going to states.
Well believe it Dane. Your next game will most certainly be the hardest of your high school career.
To beat a monster program like St. Thomas Aquinas is a rough task.
Prior to last week’s game with Lee, I had a chance to talk with senior linebacker and Indiana commit Thomas Allen. He had this to say about the mindset and confidence of his group.
“12-0 doesn’t mean anything expect that we have another week to be able to play,” Allen said. “However, I believe it gives us momentum to move forward in the right direction. It gives us confidence to play to the best of our abilities.”
For St. Thomas Aquinas, senior wideout and Syracuse commit Joshua Palmer is a dynamic pass catcher. He carries this mindset into Friday’s state title game against Plant.
“We respect every team we go up against so we are not going to treat this team any different,” Palmer said. “St Thomas Aquinas football has played every game with a state championship effort, so not many adjustments have to be made within this group of guys.”
Players to watch
Of course, Frantzen will lead this offense with his dual-threat abilites, but Plant also has some stellar pieces in senior De’Angelo Philyor (19 touchdowns) and junior Ty Thompson (9 touchdowns). Both players can contribute as receivers or backs.
Add in the emergence of athlete Kyle Trina (85 yards and a touchdown on seven touches last week) and the Panthers have weapons.
Junior tight end/defensive end Judge Culpepper and senior wide receiver/cornerback and USC commit Juwan Burgess are dangerous two-way players. Burgess had the game-clinching interception against Lee.
Juniors Bryce Love (six sacks) and Micah McFadden (12 sacks) have been steady all season long. Senior cornerback Aaron King has emerged with three interceptions.
St. Thomas Aquinas
Senior quarterback and UF commit Jake Allen is a big kid at 6’3″, 200 lbs. He has 24 touchdowns on the season.
Along with Allen, his offense is paced by seniors Palmer and Jordan Merrell, an FAU commit. Senior back Michael Epstein, an Illinois commit is fresh off a three-touchdown outing. He’s a dynamic chess piece.
The Raiders defense is just as lethal as their offense with junior Coleman Crozier (10 sacks) and junior Asante Samuel (two interceptions).
Note: The last six times St. Thomas Aquinas appeared in the state title game it won.
Plant has been really good this season. Back in the spring, I noticed a different feel for this group, a more determined one.
The Panthers will have to play sharp and score points early to have a chance in this game.
St. Thomas Aquinas doesn’t take it easy on anyone and they don’t care as long the wins come.
It will be a battle of the wits between Plant head coach Robert Weiner and Raiders head coach Roger Harriott.
The edge here has to go to St. Thomas Aquinas because it has been there time and time again. It is mostly the same group that helped win two straight state titles.
However, Plant has been determined all year and I expect this game to be chippy to start. It will come down to if the Panthers can actually keep up the pace. That’s where the game will be decided.
Jake Perper is the scout for Prep Sports Scouting. Make sure to follow along for all the updates on Twitter: @JakePerper.
If you have any questions or comments feel free to write below or email Jake at firstname.lastname@example.org.