MORE from our HomeTeam writers.
SEFFNER — On this unseasonably humid afternoon, Alvin Bailey sits on a metal bench just outside Armwood’s fieldhouse, dispelling a bag of Cheetos and any notion he’s the Hawks’ MVP to this point.
“I can’t give myself all the props,” the 16-year-old receiver/quarterback/punt returner says. “It’s just that I came in at the right time when Coach (Sean Callahan) needed me.”
If there’s one category in which Bailey doesn’t lead his nationally ranked team, it’s bravado. He does, however, rank first in passing yardage, receptions and punt return yardage, and is the team’s No. 3 rusher.
To be sure, he is but one star on a team with a constellation of them. Without Bailey, the Hawks remain the cream of Hillsborough County; they’re that loaded.
But are they still undefeated? Not a chance.
“Right now, at this point, he definitely is (the MVP),” Hawks senior left tackle Cody Waldrop said.
In the 20-17 season-opening win at nationally ranked Las Vegas Bishop Gorman, Bailey had six catches for 113 yards, turning a short Darryl Richardson pass into a 66-yard TD and setting up another Hawks score with receptions of 12 and 14 yards.
Then, when Richardson returned to Tampa with a highly inflamed bursa sac, Bailey stepped in at quarterback. In the three ensuing games — two without University of Florida-bound tailback Matt Jones — Armwood (4-0, 1-0 in Class 6A, District 8) averaged 54 points.
“If he don’t play quarterback,” Waldrop said, “our defensive end’s probably playing quarterback.”
Friday at Jefferson (1-2, 0-0), the Hawks offense could be at full strength for the first time since the spring jamboree. Jones, who had minor knee surgery in early August, is back. Richardson, who has been cleared by Armwood’s team doctor and has practiced this week, will be a game-time decision.
That means Bailey would slide back to his natural wideout spot. In an offense predicated on power running, his visibility likely would decrease. In the eyes of teammates and coaches, his value wouldn’t.
“He’s one of the most dependable kids I’ve ever coached because he’s not scared of anything,” Callahan said.
Hence the reason Callahan plopped him behind center upon the Hawks’ return from Vegas. Bailey’s bloodline also may have factored into it.
Oldest brother Dalvin Bailey was a standout defensive back for Callahan around a decade ago. Kalvin was the bruising 3,300-yard fullback who led Armwood to back-to-back state titles. Youngest brother Talvin plays for the Hawks JV.
Alvin was the JV quarterback as a freshman, leading it to a one-loss season. The only defeat: against a Tampa Bay Tech team quarterbacked by Richardson.
In three starts behind center, he’s 12-for-19 for 288 yards, five TDs and one interception. To compensate for his 6-foot stature that makes it tough to see over his linemen, he has done most of his throwing via rollouts.
“He throws the ball a little funny and things like that, but it’s good enough for high school,” Callahan said. “And I think when it comes to recruiting, people are going to see that he can do so many things.”
Not the least of which is carrying an offense in a pinch.
“Me and Coach Cal, we sat down, we talked about it, and I knew the role that I was going to have to be stepping into, and I just accepted it,” Bailey said. “I’ve just got to give a prop to my O-linemen because they’re the ones who hold everything together.”