SEFFNER — On a wet east Hillsborough night, the Armwood Hawks’ tailbacks lost their grip, their otherwise automatic kicker lost his trajectory, and their defense momentarily lost its composure.
But the one vital intangible the Hawks refused to relinquish was their swagger down the stretch. For the second consecutive week, Armwood stared down a bleak scenario with a bodacious finish.
Pinned inside their 20 on a marshy field with 6:19 to play, the Hawks drove 86 yards on 10 plays — capped by quarterback Darryl Richardson’s 15-yard TD run with 1:55 to go — to rally past Sickles, 20-16, in a critical Class 6A, District 8 game.
The drive followed a huge stand by the defense, which held the Gryphons to 7 yards on as many plays after Hawks sophomore tailback Caylon Holloway fumbled at his own 43.
“The offense was very, very confident going on the field,” said Armwood coach Sean Callahan, whose team rallied from a three-TD deficit to defeat district rival Jefferson last week. “We were looking forward to getting out there and winning the game like that.”
The drive atoned for an otherwise forgettable night that began with a 45-minute weather delay.
A sequence of big plays, commencing with senior Bilal Salat’s 93-yard TD on the opening kickoff, gave the Gryphons a 16-6 lead late in the first half.
A 14-play, 70-yard Gryphons scoring drive — ending with quarterback Nate Mills’ 2-yard keeper off left guard — was prolonged by Hawks pass-interference and personal foul calls.
On the ensuing possession, the Gryphons (3-2, 1-1) converted a fake punt on fourth and 2, then got a 45-yard halfback pass from Ray Ray McCloud to Salat, setting up Daniel Lezotte’s 25-yard field goal with 1:31 to go in the half.
That made it 16-6, with Armwood’s lone score to that point a 22-yard fumble return by Leon McQuay III. Senior Nick Feely, who missed field goals of 26 and 52 yards, missed the PAT.
“I know it sounds crazy, but at no time were we really worried during this game, we just had to settle down,” said Callahan, whose team lost three fumbles.
“We made every mistake possible and they had every break going for them. They called some good plays, caught us on some trick plays, and everything that could go wrong for us did.”
The wrong segued into right just after Lezotte’s field goal, when Richardson engineered a six-play two-minute drill, capped by his 2-yard TD on a jump-ball pass to Shedaul Price.
Sickles managed fewer than 30 total yards in the second half. McCloud had 46 of his 67 yards in the first 24 minutes.
“We fought to the end,” Sickles coach Brian Turner said.
“We were right there, we had it. The defense gave us a great opportunity at the end to put it away. If we could’ve just drove down there from the 40 … but Armwood’s got a great defense and they had a great drive to win the game.”