SEFFNER — Armwood’s highly touted defense heard the jokes after giving up 48 points in a second-round win over Jefferson last week.
The Hawks should change their name to Armwoo — no D.
“Our defense was like, nah, we can’t have that,” defensive lineman Byron Cowart said.
So Cowart’s Hawks silenced the jokers Friday night, returning to typical defensive dominance by overwhelming Springstead in a 41-0 Class 6A region final blowout at Lyle Flagg Field.
The Eagles’ first shutout loss in two years sends Armwood (13-0) to its ninth state semifinal since 2000 and a showdown against Bartram Trail with a trip to Orlando at stake.
The Hawks dominated from the start against Springstead (11-2), the first Hernando County team to reach the third round of the playoffs.
On their first drive, the Hawks needed only six plays to cover 97 yards — 5 more than Springstead totaled in the first three quarters. Noah Johnson raced 11 yards on a quarterback keeper to put Armwood up for good.
“That was one of the things — we wanted to make a statement early in the game,” Hawks coach Sean Callahan said. “It was clear that we were going to play good football.”
Armwood never slowed down. Hunter Zilbar snagged a diving, one-handed catch in the end zone on a 9-yard Johnson pass on the next drive. Greg Newton gashed the Eagles for a 30-yard touchdown rush early in the second quarter, and Trevor Laurent caught a 70-yard score.
Even when Springstead’s defense appeared to make a stand, Armwood found a crack. After a Hawks penalty set up fourth down, Johnson hit Austin Gallon, who broke a slant route into a 44-yard score. Johnson finished with 251 passing yards and three touchdowns, and his Hawks scored more points Friday (41) than Springstead allowed in its entire district schedule (40).
“Everything’s clicking over there,” Cowart said of his offense. “The whole team’s clicking right now. It’s crazy.”
Cowart’s defense was equally impressive. Springstead never cracked the Hawks’ 30-yard line, mustered only six first downs and finished with only 116 yards.
“We couldn’t give them any success,” Cowart said.
Cowart, Jordan Griffin, Hyriam Frederick and a dominant front seven contained the Eagles’ strong ground game. Eagles quarterback Tyler Mahla finished with only 63 rushing yards and 11 passing yards, and Dederallo Blue had an interception for the Hawks.
Springstead had only six plays all game that covered more than 4 yards; Armwood had five such plays on its first drive alone.
“This stings,” Eagles coach Mike Garofano said.
Springstead’s defeat was made worse by an injury to Daniel Wright, who was knocked out of the game early in the second half. The junior running back was alert as he left the field on a stretcher, but no other information on his condition was available.