TAMPA — Seeking to jumpstart an offense that has sometimes started slowly, Plant quarterback Jordan McCloud and Walter Wilbon III jumped out of the gate to key a four-play, 40-yard touchdown drive using a no-huddle offense.
That drive set the tone as the dual threat of McCloud and Wilbon helped Plant (10-1) dominate Orlando-East River (9-2) in a 43-0 Class 7A region quarterfinal victory Friday night.
The Panthers earned their fourth shutout this season and advanced to next Friday’s semifinal at Viera.
Scrambling away from East River’s pass rushers on key passes, McCloud finished with four touchdowns, including a 4-yarder to Leonard Parker that gave Plant a 15-0 lead later in the first quarter.
"He’s (McCloud) just so calm and he makes everybody else ready to go," Wilbon said. "He’s definitely our leader on this team."
Out of a crowded Plant backfield, Wilbon’s emergence as the go-to rusher was more surprising as he gained 143 yards on 12 carries, surpassing the 114 yards he’d had all season. Normally a two-way player, Wilbon broke numerous tackles to keep the offense moving.
Wilbon "really showed his power the way he finished those runs and broke some of those tackles into big runs," Plant coach Robert Weiner said. "He made all of us look smart tonight the way he played."
Wilbon’s three runs in the second quarter included a 41-yarder where knocked defenders to the ground and set up McCloud’s third touchdown pass, a 3-yarder to Alex Carvajal.
"It was surprising, I didn’t think I was going to push the guys to the ground like that," Wilbon said of the long run. "Then once I saw I was out in the clear, I just kept going."
An interception by Derrick Powell set up the Panthers’ fourth touchdown on seven-play, 80-yard drive. Wilbon had three carries, including a 28-yard run, before McCloud threw a screen pass that Leo Parker turned into a 31-yard touchdown.
East River reached Plant’s 3-yard line in the fourth quarter, but senior Micah McFadden preserved the Panthers’ shutout with an interception in the end zone.