SEFFNER — Before the sides converged Friday at Lyle Flagg Field, the most glaring disparities between Seffner and South Tampa were demographics, Starbucks per capita and waterfront parcels.
Today, a few more vital statistics — offense, defense, special teams, even penchant for penalties — divide them.
In those areas, Armwood put miles of separation between itself and Plant on a rainy night.
In a regionally televised clash of nationally ranked teams, the Hawks (9-0) retained Hillsborough County supremacy with a dominant 21-0 triumph before a throng of roughly 4,000.
“It’s a big statement,” said University of Florida-bound tailback Matt Jones, who sealed things with a 30-yard touchdown run up the heart of Plant’s defense with 4:18 to play. “It just tells us that we’re county champs now and those boys in South Tampa can’t compete with us.”
On a night he got two huge plays from his special teams and watched his defense get its seventh shutout in nine games, Armwood coach Sean Callahan was only slightly more diplomatic.
“There was no letup,” said Callahan, whose team has outscored the Panthers 38-0 in the programs’ past two meetings. “Our kids wanted to make a statement. It’s Armwood football — very fast, very physical.
“This is like the one night of the year we can be better than them.”
They seemed better in every area, including penalties. Armwood was penalized 16 times for 160 yards. Unofficially, it allowed the same total to Plant’s normally prolific offense.
“We came in this game hungry, and our expectation was to dominate like that,” senior outside linebacker Eric Striker said.
Plant’s lone parting gift on this damp evening may have been the confidence it gained in senior James Few. On a night he was regularly flushed from the pocket, Few had more success against the relentless Hawks pass rush than any other local quarterback (13-for-22, 123 yards).
“He really showed true guts,” Plant coach Robert Weiner said.
Problem was, the Panthers committed turnovers on both their trips inside Armwood’s red zone, and the ground game managed only 37 yards.
“I guess it makes a national statement,” said Striker, who became Armwood’s all-time sacks leader (38) with a late sack of Few.
Armwood led 3-0 at halftime on Nick Feely’s 45-yard field goal but made it a two-score game when Tampa Bay Tech transfer Garian Brown returned the second half’s opening kickoff 96 yards.
Behind the inside running of burly Maronte Gilbert, Plant moved inside Armwood’s red zone on the ensuing possession before linebacker Keionne Baines intercepted a tipped Few pass.
Two plays later, Hawks tailback Wade Edwards turned a short pass over the middle from Darryl Richardson into a 77-yard touchdown and a 15-0 Armwood lead.
“I’ve said it all week long, they’re the best Armwood defense I’ve ever seen, and that’s not a light statement,” Weiner said.