Seven weeks after Armwood’s triumphant trek to Las Vegas, the irony of that setting to commence the 2011 season grows more profound with each passing Friday. Among the results we’ve encountered to this point are some even the boldest of oddsmakers wouldn’t have touched. Alonso undefeated? Armwood’s defense unscored upon (at least in Florida)? Brandon annihilating Newsome? Blake topping Middleton? With each kickoff, things get crazier. Since projecting the future seems like such a roll of the proverbial dice, we’re going heavy with the hindsight. The following is our midseason report, replete with accolades, analysis and things we simply never saw coming.
Team of the half-year
As brilliantly as Armwood, Berkeley Prep, Plant and Plant City have performed, the fact all are unbeaten at this point isn’t totally a stunner. Alonso’s a different story. The 5-0 Ravens, on their third coach (Brian Emanuel) in as many seasons, have shown balance (121 pass yards per game, 166 rushing), accountability, even resilience (see 38-34 win at King). The Ravens have tied the 2003 squad for the best start in school history; they can have the mark all to themselves with a win tonight at Plant City.
Honorable mention: Armwood, Berkeley Prep, Plant, Plant City
Coach of the half-year
To be sure, a segment of society forever will refuse to give Armwood’s Sean Callahan props because not all his players are home-grown (These days, whose are?). But the fact is, Callahan lost his starting quarterback (Darryl Richardson) in Game 1, his workhorse tailback (Matt Jones) in August and all his linebackers in June (graduation). Nonetheless, Armwood has remained dominant behind a modified offensive scheme led by a converted receiver (Alvin Bailey), and a defense that hasn’t allowed a point since its trip to Vegas.
Honorable mention: Mike DePue, Robinson; Brian Emanuel, Alonso; Brian Turner, Sickles; Robert Weiner, Plant
Player of the half-year
Alvin Bailey, and don’t even try arguing with us. After this fleet, fearless junior essentially carried Armwood against Bishop Gorman (six catches, 112 yards, one TD), he slid behind center when Richardson arrived back in Florida on crutches. To this point, Bailey has totaled nearly 1,000 yards, a bunch of them without Jones in his backfield. He also returns punts, primarily because he’s the only one Callahan trusts to do the job.
Honorable mention: Nelson Agholor, Berkeley Prep; Bennie Coney, Plant City
In Week 2, Jefferson’s Tyriq McCord put his team on his back late in the fourth quarter by catching a short pass and taking it 26 yards for the go-ahead TD in the Dragon’s 22-21, come-from-behind victory over Newsome. That play was set up by quite possibly the best defensive stand of the year, with Jefferson stopping Newsome from gaining 2 yards on third and fourth down. Keep in mind, Newsome’s run-first, wing-T offense is averaging 271 yards per game, so preventing Will Worth and Keller Powers from grinding out 2 yards is quite the feat.
Honorable mention: Armwood 20, Bishop Gorman 17; Canterbury 43, Cambridge Christian 42; Admiral Farragut 49, Carrollwood Day 41;
Greg “G-Whiz” Windham’s ad libbed 97-yard touchdown run in King’s win over Wharton. The call had been for a handoff to the fullback in the Lions’ veer offense, but, after reading the defense, Windham kept the handoff and ran right for the lead.
Honorable mention: Newsome’s Jorge Thompson jumping off his route to catch an errant pass for a 28-yard gain that set up the winning score in the Wolves’ season-opening, 26-25 win over Tampa Bay Tech.
Best single-game performance
In a sea of contenders, we’re singling out Gaither senior FS Eddie Pastrana, who had five interceptions last week against Steinbrenner. The feat’s ‘wow’ factor, combined with the stakes (this was a huge district contest), distinguish this one.
Honorable mention: The entire Brandon team and coaching staff for pulling this year’s biggest upset, a 34-0 win over Newsome (And while we’re on Brandon, how about Tyrell Garner’s 340-yard rushing effort against Freedom); Antwon Amstrong, Plant City (three picks, 80 receiving yards vs. Durant)
Prediction we nailed...so far
On Aug. 12, we took a crack at predicting which players were primed for a breakout season. “I’d defer to Durant junior FB Jamarlon Hamilton,” Joey wrote. “A 200-pounder with a low center of gravity, Hamilton — a 500-yard rusher last season — could double that total in the Cougars’ veer offense.” Hamilton, with 554 yards, already has eclipsed his total from 2010.
Honorable mention: Picking Jesuit (5-0 in Class 5A-8) to “run the table” in its district (Aug. 3)
Prediction we wish we could have back
Tabbing Steinbrenner to win the 7A-7 title (July 2). Forget egg, we’ve got an entire omelette on our face due to this pick. Sure, the Warriors have made profound progress in two-plus seasons, and still conceivably could win this six-team race, but that 37-7 humiliation last week at Gaither was reality served sunny-side up.
Honorable mention: Pegging Carrollwood Day (1-3 in 2A-5) for the playoffs all summer
By Joey Knight and Laura Keeley, Times staff writers