Armwood High's Evan Davis knows the pressure that comes with directing a program that annually competes for state titles. But the first-year head coach also remembers when championships were not a foregone conclusion.
Davis was a quarterback for the Hawks in 2003 when they won the Class 4A state title, the first for a Hillsborough County program since 1969.
It also was the first time a team from Hillsborough had ever gone 15-0.
Fans flocked to Gainesville for the state title game. They followed the team bus home after the win. There was a police escort home once Armwood reached the county line.
"We got to the school and there were so many people there, the bus had to park on the sidewalk," Davis said. "And this was around 11:30 p.m. Everybody wanted to just be there to claim this title because it had been so long for the county."
Davis is back at his alma mater, though he never really left. He has been a part of the coaching staff since 2005.
He is not the only coach who came home. Three others — Zephyrhills' Nick Carroll, Lakewood's Cory Moore and Largo's Marcus Paschal — are also directing schools where they once showed flashes of greatness as a player.
They all have their teams in the second round of the playoffs.
Not all the memories for Moore, who was a running back at Lakewood from 1991-94, are fond.
"We've never been able to beat Jesuit when I was a player," Moore said. "Jesuit always kept us out of the playoffs, it seemed. The first time I remember beating Jesuit was in 2012 (20-17 in the regular season). Of course, we would beat them in basketball. I played basketball, too."
In his junior year, Moore broke his leg against Jesuit while blocking for an extra point.
Now, he gets another chance, this time as a coach.
The Spartans face Jesuit on Friday night in the Class 6A region semifinals. He said he will not bring up the school's history against the Tigers.
"I don't want to put any undue pressure on them," Moore said. "We've played big teams this season, Lehigh and Largo, so there's nothing different. We just can't make mistakes."
Nick Carroll, Zephyrhills
Years as a player: 1994-97 (defensive back)
Playoff appearances as a player: 1995 (Class 4A first round, lost 21-17 to Bartow); 1997 (Class 4A second round, 7-0 win over Crystal River; 24-0 loss to Gainesville Eastside).
Years as a coach: 2016-present
Playoff appearances as a coach: 2016, 2017
Memorable playoff moment: The 7-0 win over Crystal River in 1997, the Bulldogs' first victory in the playoffs. "Crystal River was a really good team. They had two 1,000-yard rushers and a receiver that I believe went to Georgia Tech. I was able to tip a pass in the first half that one of our guys was able to intercept in the end zone for a touchback. It turned out to be a pivotal play in the game."
Evan Davis, Armwood
Years as a player: 2002-03 (quarterback)
Playoff appearances: 2002 (Class 4A second round; 52-27 win over Countryside, 17-14 loss to Lake Gibson); 2003 (Class 4A state title; 28-10 win over Dunedin; 20-12 win over Fort Myers; 46-9 win over Countryside; 34-14 win over Miami Washington; 29-21 win over Lake Gibson).
Years as a coach: 2017 (first season)
Memorable playoff moment: Winning a state title as a senior in 2003. "I just remember how excited everyone was for that. This was before Plant won its first title and the whole city and county just kind of embraced us. There were no expectations back then. If we lost in the third round, no one would have noticed. Now, the standards are pretty high and that kind of started that first title."
Cory Moore, Lakewood
Years as a player: 1991-94 (running back/linebacker)
Playoff appearances: 1993 (Class 3A first round, 21-7 loss to Land O'Lakes); 1994 (Class 3A first round, 37-7 loss to Pasco).
Years as a coach: 2008-present
Playoff appearances: 2008-10, 2012-17
Memorable playoff moment: In 2013, the Spartans made it all the way to the Class 5A state semifinals. They lost 40-38 to Clay in a game in which they missed two extra points and a field goal. "The only ones I remember are the losses," Moore said. "What could we have done better? I try to gather as much data and make us better for the next season."
Marcus Paschal, Largo
Years as a player: 1999-2001 (quarterback, defensive back)
Playoff appearances: 2000 (Class 4A first round, 42-0 loss to Bradenton Southeast); 2001 (Class 4A first round, 24-21 loss to Winter Haven)
Years as coach: 2014-present
Playoff appearances: 2014, 2017
Memorable playoff moment: The win last week — Paschal's first in the playoffs as a coach — stands out. So does the loss to Winter Haven when he was a senior. "I was the quarterback and our tailback got hurt. I came in at running back and had over 100 yards rushing. We lost, but we played a lot better than the year before when we lost to Bradenton Southeast."