SEFFNER — While shoppers staged an all-out blitz on malls from Westchase to Wesley Chapel, parts of Seffner seemed to be bracing for bleak Friday.
No one could know for sure just how Armwood, hounded by an Florida High School Athletic Association investigation and humbled by its worst effort of the year seven days before, would respond in its Class 6A region semifinal Friday against Hillsborough.
But on a crisp night at Lyle Flagg Field, the answer came at the Terriers like a throng of discount seekers at midnight: ruthlessly, relentlessly and poised to trample anything in its way.
The Hawks held Hillsborough to 120 total yards and watched Florida-bound tailback Matt Jones (22 carries, 133 yards) run with punishing purpose en route to a 23-0 romp. Armwood (12-0) hosts Gainesville next.
“The swagger, it definitely came back,” Jones said, “and I think I got the Matt Jones swagger back.”
Terriers coach Earl Garcia seemed to concur after watching his team register more punts (eight) than first downs (seven). This, he suggested, was the Armwood opponents have come to know and dread. Certainly not the one that needed a late Alvin Bailey touchdown run to eke past a .500 Lakewood Ranch team 35-31 the week before.
“They’re better than us. The best team won tonight,” Garcia said. “This is the Armwood defense we’re accustomed to.”
Hillsborough moved inside Armwood’s 40 only twice: once on a Jones fumble (Hillsborough fumbled it back the very next play), and once on the game’s final possession. After letting Lakewood Ranch gash them on the ground, the Hawks allowed 64 rushing yards Friday.
“We were focused,” said coach Sean Callahan, who had acknowledged to allowing the practices before the Lakewood Ranch contest to become too loose.
“I wasn’t worried about the score in the first half (a 9-0 Hawks lead). The score in the first half wasn’t indicative of how things were going. We were in control the whole time and that was the biggest thing I was concerned about.”
All of Armwood’s first-half points came on special teams. Bailey, who started at quarterback for injured junior Darryl Richardson (shoulder), returned his first punt of the night 72 yards for a touchdown. Kicker Nick Feely later tied his career best with a 47-yard field goal.
For all practical intents, the Hawks sealed things on their first two possessions of the second half. The first, a 77-yard, 10-play march, ended on Wade Edwards’ 26-yard TD run.
On the ensuing possession, after Jones softened up the Terriers with 24 yards on three carries, offensive guard Cody Waldrop capped the eight-play drive by lumbering for a 7-yard score.
Jones was complemented on the ground by Bailey (16 carries, 66 yards) and Edwards (eight carries, 63 yards).
“Every time I step on the field it feels like somebody hit me in my face or something like that, and I feel mad and I just want to go after somebody,” Jones said. “Whoever’s in a different kind of jersey, I just want to hit them. I’m just running with a different kind of urgency.”