With both teams suffering big losses to graduation, neither Plantation’s Steve Davis nor Dillard coach Lorenzo Davis knew quite what to expect in Friday’s season opener.
After a sloppy first half in which neither team scored nor did much right, both teams found their offense with Dillard quarterback Jason Collins leading the Panthers to a 20-15 win at PAL Field.
Collins did most of the work for the Panthers offense, completing 24 of 48 passes for 274 yards and three second-half touchdowns, including one with 2:32 remaining to hand Plantation its first home loss since 2012.
After a sloppy first half, Collins got the Panthers going and opened the third by leading the Panthers (8-4 last year) on a 64-yard drive.
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Collins capped things by tossing a 12-yard scoring strike to Jordan Merrell in the right corner of the end zone after deftly dodging Plantation’s blitz.
With no faith in its kicking game — Dillard only punted twice and didn’t kick after its touchdowns — almost every drive became four-down territory for Collins. Dillard ended up going 3-for-8 on fourth down with two of the conversions resulting in touchdowns.
Plantation, which didn’t have much offense in the opening half, quickly responded to Dillard’s first touchdown by going 80 yards and taking a 7-6 lead with 4:58 left in the third.
The Colonels, also 8-4 last year, finally got their ground game going with Antwuan Haynes doing most of the damage.
On third down from the 33, Dillard was called for pass interference in the end zone, giving Plantation a fresh set of downs. Two plays later, sophomore Dave Small took the handoff and ran it in from 9 yards out.
Collins worked the Panthers deep into Plantation territory again, but his throw into the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 4 was knocked away, and the Colonels took over late in the third.
In the fourth, however, Collins took possession at the Plantation 45 and quickly worked the ball downfield, completing a 15-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Merrell.
Plantation retook the lead with 5:52 left to play when quarterback Archie Banton and Yvon St. Louis hooked up from 9 yards out.
After the Colonels picked up the conversion, Collins went back to work and moved the Panthers 61 yards, culminating in his fourth-down pass to Basil Spencer from the Plantation 40.
Plantation got the ball back with just over two minutes left and worked inside the Dillard 40. But Banton was sacked on the final play of the game by Christian Bouie desperately trying to find a receiver down field.
Penalties were a problem for both teams as the two were docked for a combined 250 yards.