By FRANCIS FEDOR
A very exciting Sumner season and run at a title ended with a 20-14 loss to the Plant Panthers on a chilly night at the Tank.
The Stingrays now enter the off-season and look to replace key seniors to continue to progress.
The Stingrays’ hopes of a state title were dashed by Plant, the same team that ended their playoff fun last season. Sumner was hoping for a different result with home field advantage and was fired up at the outset of the game. The Panthers won the toss, which became a harbinger of what the outcome was to be, but deferred to take the ball to the second half and put the Sumner offense on the field first. Sumner ends the season having scored first in every game, and its first score vs. the Panthers was a prayer that was answered from senior QB Greg Smith III to Malik Brown. Smith was under heavy Plant pressure, as was the case all night, and heaved a pass towards the end-zone where the sure handed Brown hauled it in for the game’s first score. It looked like the drive might end as the Panthers forced two back-to-back plays for loss, putting the offense in a 3rd and 25, but the drive ended with a 24-yard TD catch by Brown. A short kickoff put the Panthers in business near midfield, and this time it was Sumner that forced a fourth down, with the Panthers opting for a field goal try from their 25 yard line. The Plant kicker drilled the ball, worthy of an NFL kicker, and it was good by at least 10 yards; however, a flag on the play pushed the Panthers back. The kicker remained on the field, again cleared the goal posts with yards to spare and Plant was on the board.
Sumner rose above its mistakes and the officials’ flags vs. Riverview and Durant, but the flags and the relentless Plant defense became too much of an obstacle. The most glaring questionable call occurred on a punt back to Plant where the returner appeared to signal a fair catch with everyone in the Tank seeing it; however, the returner advanced the ball and the play and the result of the return were allowed to stand. The officials were MIA as both teams took the field for the second half and had to be signaled by the public address announcer to return to the field. And there was also an animated discussion with both head coaches and the officials as the teams headed to the locker rooms. It was a tough night for Sumner and for the officials.
Sumner had its hands full on both offense and defense. Greg Smith was constantly under pressure and in many attempts to try to create offense, a Panther would be right there. The Stingray prolific running game was held to only 10 yards by the aggressive Plant defense. The ‘Rays were down Tyler Smith with a foot injury and missed him as a second big strike option.
The defense had opportunities to make plays, but every time it had a Plant player lined up for a tackle, the player escaped and added extra yards to the end of the play. Sumner had a number of big plays called back for flags, the biggest being a pass completion from Greg Smith to Malik Brown that would have resulted in a long TD completion. Through it all, the ‘Rays had a late chance to win the game. With around four minutes left, Plant was moving and killing clock, but a botched snap popped up in the air and landed in the hands of a ’Rays defender. Sumner had life, and a TD could put them ahead. As was the case all night, the Plant defense stymied Greg Smith, the offense, and a fourth down pass to Malik Brown was defended, and the Panthers celebrated the win that advances them to the State semi-finals.
Sumner will look a bit different next season with the loss of key seniors. Offensive leaders Greg Smith III, Devin Spencer and Malik Brown, among others, will depart the program for other opportunities. They all have been a big part of a season that ends with an 11-2 record highlighted by finally defeating Durant and advancing the ‘Rays to as close to a title as the program has been in only its fourth season. Their leadership will filter down to the players that remain, and Sumner, led by Alonzo Ashwood and stellar assistants, will continue to grow the program. The future remains bright for Sumner football.
Photos available for purchase at https://francisfedorfotography.zenfolio.com/ and
https://www.maxpreps.com/photography/photographers/ Florida-Francis Fedor
Photography Service Inquiries: Email: FrancisFotography@Outlook.com Phone: 202-683-9691.