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December 21, 2012
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At the beginning of August, FlaVarsity.com sat down and evaluated our 'Top 25' by looking at teams to keep an eye on. Over the next seven days - we'll re-evaluate how we did. Who did we miss on and who did we see good things from. The first series is Class 8A.
The first five
Once the offensive line was weakened with the loss of Klepal, Plant's offense struggled with an identity Wesley Bullock stepped in admirably, but the Panthers lacked that killer offensive attack that could strike at a moment's notice. Several closer-than-normal games later, Dr. Phillips ended the Plant season 24-7 in the second round of the post-season - marking the first time since 2007 the Panthers didn't make it to at least the regional finals.
We missed on these three
Ok - so we had a few questions about Apopka - and after a 1-2 start looked like they were legitimate concerns. But head coach Rick Darlington texted me early in the year and asked why the Apopka-Dr. Phillips game wasn't one of the 'Ten to Watch' and told me they'd meet again.
He was right and we were wrong. The maturity of Zack Darlington along with a maturing offensive line gave the Blue Darters a 'story-book' run that ended with an interception in the Citrus Bowl late in the 8A game. Of course, there will always be the talk of the interception that happened 3 minutes earlier in that game, but that was ruled off by a late hit.
Unbeaten going into the state semi-finals with an all-star cast, but the Panthers were caught in the web of the spin masters Darlington - both the elder and the younger. Incredible play by Marcell Harris (when he was healthy) and Eric Harrell along with QB Alton Meeks. 13-1 is nothing to be ashamed of - and the Panthers will be back in 2013.
For the second straight year, the Eagles got to the state regional finals before bowing out. In 2011 it was Plant and in 2012 - it was Dr. Phillips. Pete Dinovo will have to wait until his college days to see if he can win that elusive ring - but oh what a run the Eagles had for the last two years.
Honorable mention - Seminole Ridge, Tomorrow we'll take a look at 7A.