ORLANDO - Bradenton Manatee fell behind 14-0 early and could never recover Friday night in the 5A state championship game at the Citrus Bowl as Tampa Plant (14-1) defeated the Hurricanes 21-14.
The Panthers, who won the 4A state title last year, came on strong again this season, finishing with wins over Lakeland and Manatee to cap off a brilliant two-year run under head coach Robert Weiner, who also captured a title back in 2006.
The Panthers got on the board first with an impressive opening drive that culminated in a 20-yard scoring pass from junior quarterback Phillip Ely to senior Eric Dungy with 7:31 left in the first quarter.
Plant extended the lead to 14-0 with 9:41 left in the first half when DeAndre Queen ran it in from the 2.
The Panthers added to the total when junior standout James Wilder ran 41 yards for a score that pushed the score to 21-0 with 3:06 left in the opening half.
Manatee (13-2) got on the board for the first time with 3:42 left in the third quarter when Quenton Bundrage caught a 34 pass from Brion Carnes.
The Hurricanes cut the lead to 21-14 when Carnes found Mike Blakely out of the backfield for an 87-yard gain down to the Plant 2. On the very next play, Blakely finished off the scoring drive with :37 left in the third quarter.
Manatee 0 0 14 0 - 14
Plant 7 14 0 0 - 21
P - Eric Dungy 20 pass from Phillip Ely (Chris Finn kick), 7:31 (1), 7-0
P - DeAndre Queen 2 run (Chris Finn kick), 9:44 (2), 14-0
P - James Wilder 41 run (Chris Finn kick), 3:06 (2), 21-0
BM - Quenton Bundrage 34 pass from Brion Carnes (Colby Lengel kick), 3:42 (3), 21-7
BM - Mike Blakley 2 run (Colby Lengel kick), :37 (3), 21-14