Varsity football defeats Hillsborough

Kate Caranante, Staff Writer

The varsity football team opened their 2018 season against the Hillsborough Terriers in a game that has a deeper meaning to it when it comes down to the history of the two schools. 

“It’s always cool to be a part of history, to know that you are a part of something that is bigger than yourself or this particular team or one particular moment,” head coach Robert Weiner said.  

The Plant-Hillsborough rivalry goes all the way back to the 1920s, making it the oldest rivalry in the state. The Panthers bested the Terriers in their last 12 meetings, and they hoped to stay on the winning side of the rivalry. 

“The tradition is really what makes this a rivalry,” Weiner said.  

The game was set to be played Friday, Aug. 24, but was cancelled due to weather. Rescheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25, the game was delayed yet again, but this time there was no lightning, so the game went on despite the light rain. The Panthers kicked off to the Terriers, in Dad’s Stadium, at 8 p.m.  

Senior running back Walter Wilbon III scored the first touchdown on a 14-yard run. With the Panthers up 7-0, Hillsborough struck back at the end of the first quarter, scoring on a run, making the game 7-7 heading into the second quarter.  

The offense put together a 56-yard drive in the second quarter, including a fourth down conversion by senior running back Leonard Parker, capped off by a six-yard touchdown run from junior quarterback Tucker Gleason. That resulted in a 14-7 lead with 6 minutes and 41 seconds left in second quarter. 

With Hillsborough pinned deep in Panther territory, the Terriers fumbled the snap and it was recovered in the endzone by junior linebacker Jackson Hacker for a touchdown, along with a two-point conversion by Gleason. Down 22-7, Hillsborough did not let the score get too far ahead of them as they returned Plant’s kickoff for a touchdown to put the score at 22-14 

With two minutes and 30 seconds left before half, Gleason ran in his second touchdown of the night from the one-yard line, finishing a seven-play, 76-yard drive, with a two-point conversion successfully run in by Wilbon.  Striking back yet again the Terriers scored on a 36-yard pass and make a two-point conversion, putting the score at 30-22.  

Right before halftime, Gleason ran the ball six yards for his third rushing touchdown of the night. Gleason then ran in the third two-point conversion of the night and the team headed into the field house up 38-22 at half.  

The Panthers received the ball heading into third quarter, but Hillsborough intercepted a pass by Gleason and then put together a long drive, scoring on a one-yard run; they were unable to secure the two-point conversion, however, making the score 38-28 with 3 minutes and 39 seconds to go in the third. 

Late in the fourth quarter, the offense engineered a 16-play, 92-yard drive. To end that drive, Gleason punched in his fourth touchdown of the night on a one-yard keeper extending the lead to 45-28. Hillsborough was unable to make a comeback in the remaining 2 minutes and 49 seconds; as a result, the Panthers secured the win and started off the season at 1-0. 

Gleason transferred to Plant from East Lake High School in the spring of 2018; in his first game of the season under center, he had four rushing touchdowns, 106 rushing yards and 78 passing yards. 

“I mean it was awesome; there is nothing like it,” Gleason said. “It’s a great atmosphere, it was a great rivalry game, so it was just an amazing experience.” 

The next game is at Robinson High School Friday, Aug. 31, at 7:30 p.m.