TAMPA, FL (WFLA) – “It’s scary, but that’s a good thing.”
On Friday the 13th, Plant linebacker Joe Ryan isn’t afraid of machete-wielding, mask-wearing murderers. He’s afraid of his high school career coming to an end.
“To tell you the truth, I’m really nervous because this could be the last time I play high school football,” echoed fellow-senior Julius Jackson. “But you can’t play nervous because then you might mess up. So it’s really… I don’t know what to do yet.”
The Plant Panthers (8-2) host the Kathleen Red Devils (9-1) Friday at 7:30, with the winner advancing to the regional semifinals. The loser… Gets the Jason Vorhees treatment.
“I’m not a coach who says: ‘Okay, we’re playing another game,'” insists Plant head coach Robert Weiner. “We’re not playing another game. All those other games, we got to play again the next week. If you don’t win, you’re going to turn in your pads on Monday and stop playing. There better be a whole different level of intensity and a whole different level of focus.”
“That kind of desperation, that kind of ‘fighting for your life’ mentality is what we want to have on Friday night, and we need to make sure it’s not our last game,” added Ryan.
“We’re not going to lose,” predicted Jackson. “In all of our minds, we know we’re going to go to states. We’ve worked too hard not to.”