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SEFFNER — For a spellbinding moment or two Friday night, Armwood’s playoff magic of 2011 appeared to be percolating in the humid Seffner air. Turned out, it was vaporous.
The Hawks (1-1) simply couldn’t seize it. As a result, what could’ve been another magic moment now must be a teachable one.
And coach Sean Callahan suggested there’s a lot these Hawks can learn from their 36-28 loss to reigning Class 3A state champ Delray Beach American Heritage.
“I think there’s some good things we can pull out of this thing and I think we’ll be okay,” Callahan said after watching his team lose its first game at home to someone not named Plant in 10 years. “Are we going to be state champions? I don’t know, but I think we’re going to be a good football team.”
Before a regional TV audience, the Hawks — who lost their entire starting offensive and defensive lines from last season — held the Stallions (2-0) to fewer than 300 total yards. Stallions senior Greg Bryant, the nation’s No. 2-ranked tailback according to ESPN, ran for only 49.
But big plays repeatedly burned the Hawks, who rallied with two late TDs of their own.
Bryant capped the game’s opening drive with a 25-yard scoring run, four plays after an Armwood encroachment penalty on third and 3 at midfield.
With less than a minute to play in the first half, Hawks senior and University of Florida commitment Alvin Bailey fumbled a punt that had bounced in front of him. Three plays later, Stallions quarterback Marcus Davis (220 total yards) hit Chris Noguera for a 16-yard TD, giving Heritage a 20-7 halftime lead.
Bailey atoned himself somewhat with a 13-yard TD catch from Darryl Richardson on third and goal midway through the third quarter, cutting the deficit to 20-14. But Davis responded with a TD pass of his own then scampered for a 65-yard run to set up a field goal, giving the guests a 29-14 lead.
Evan Harvey’s 30-yard interception return off Richardson made it 36-14 late in the third.
“We were only up (two touchdowns) so that was a huge play for us just so we could hang on,” Stallions first-year coach Stacy Sizemore said. “We only dressed 30 guys and we’ve got a lot of guys going both ways. We were out there cramping up.”
Exploiting that fatigue, the Hawks scored twice in the last six minutes, the last TD a Ronnie Cohen 4-yard run with 3:22 to play.
Armwood’s defense forced a three-and-out on the ensuing possession, but a sack, false-start penalty and three Richardson incompletions ended the rally attempt.
Richardson, who got decent protection but struggled to find open receivers, finished 12-for-26 for 143 yards. Armwood managed only 51 yards on the ground.
“They were bigger and stronger than us and we couldn’t do much inside, so we had to get out of that (formation) where we’re lined up real tight and spread everybody out,” Callahan said.
“But I liked our attitude; we didn’t give up. When you win like we do all the time it’s interesting to see how we handle stuff like this.”