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Titans Sports

Tampa Bay Tech 32, Plant 30

Varsity vs Plant HS on 9/4/2009 7:30:00 PM
Posted Saturday, September 05, 2009 by Times Staff
 One of the most memorable nights of C.C. Culpepper's coaching life — equal parts excruciating, exhausting and exhilarating — began with him disgusted at his special teams.

It ended with him unabashedly praising his special team.

For years, south Tampa will remember these Titans, the ones who crashed their 2009 season opener. Down by 24 with 19 minutes to play against defending Class 4A state champ Plant, the Titans rallied behind a dizzying sequence of plays, both botched and big, for a 32-30 triumph.

The improbable outcome, Plant's first regular-season home loss to a team not named Armwood since 2005, had Culpepper recounting his hiring three seasons before. That day, he stood in the school cafeteria and told whomever was listening TBT would win a state crown in Year 3.

"If this doesn't set the tone to do that," Culpepper said, "I don't know what else will."

At a place they call Dads Stadium, this wasn't your dad's typical Plant game. Aerial efficiency and blink-of-an-eye drives were supplanted by ball control and opportunism.

With starting quarterback Phillip Ely (back) and a handful of other starters sidelined, Plant leaned heavily on tailback James Wilder Jr. (11 carries, 70 yards) and some opportunism. A TBT fumble on its initial second-half possession set up Wilder's 8-yard scoring run to make it 14-0.

A safety on a long high snap, and a TD by senior speedster Allen Sampson on the ensuing free kick, made it 24-0 with 7:01 to play in the third. "My offensive staff, it wasn't going good for them," Culpepper said. "But they never dropped their heads and said we can't do it."

Try keeping up from here. The Titans finally scored when D'Robea Jones scooped up an errant pitch by Panthers quarterback James Few (4-for-10, 27 yards) and raced about 15 yards for a TD with 3:52 to play in the third. A blocked punt by TBT's Josh Smith set up Maurice Hagens' 10-yard TD run. C.J. Jackson added the conversion on a run, making it 24-16. Sampson immediately followed with an 89-yard TD on the kickoff return to put Plant back ahead by 14.

Burly Titans linebacker Sam Jones then returned the next kickoff to the Plant 4, setting up Cludner Lacount's 4-yard TD and another successful two-point play.

That made it 30-24. On the next play from scrimmage, Panthers senior Deandre Queen fumbled — though still photos showed his knee had hit the ground — at the Plant 30 with 5:25 remaining.

The very next play, Titans quarterback Johnathon Williams, 1-for-8 for 7 yards and an interception to that point, found Lacount isolated over the middle for a 30-yard TD to tie with 6:25 to play.

On the ensuing conversion attempt, C.J. Jackson took the snap and heaved a one-handed chest pass to Donta Evans. It was TBT's fourth successful two-point conversion in as many tries.

"Oh my goodness," said Hagens (29 carries, 146 yards). "My calves are killing me."

 

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