SEFFNER — Film review of a formidable opponent can elicit the hyperbole in any coach. The more games stored on his desktop, the likelier he is to gush. It’s a rule of thumb drive.
Even a veteran such as Sean Callahan isn’t immune. After breaking down a few games of St. Johns Bartram Trail, Armwood’s 22nd-year coach had this assessment of Bears quarterback (and University of Tennessee commitment) Nathan Peterman:
“Aaron Murray with Robert Marve’s athleticism.”
Give that man a Dads Stadium seat cushion. Seriously, let’s presume Callahan’s comparison of Peterman to Plant’s two greatest quarterbacks is only half accurate, that Peterman possesses the Murray cannon but not the Marve mobility — or vice versa.
Still makes for a daunting challenge in Friday’s Class 6A state semifinal at Lyle Flagg Field. As it shapes up, the Bears (12-1) are likely to try to keep the Hawks off balance by letting Peterman pitch and pass.
Through 13 contests, many against established northeast Florida opposition, they’ve proven capable of both. Bartram Trail, averaging 44.7 points a contest, averages more than 190 passing and 225 rushing yards per game.
“We think they’re better than (Bishop) Gorman,” said Callahan, referring to the Hawks’ nationally ranked Las Vegas-based opponent that they defeated 20-17 in the season opener.
“But the thing is, if they run option, that means it becomes assignment football. If we’ve got to (key on option assignments), then we can’t be blitzing. But we like to blitz if they’re going to throw the ball, and now we’re guessing because they’re so good at both.”
Behind an offensive front averaging roughly 265 pounds, a constellation of Bears offensive standouts has flourished.
Senior Gabe Johnson, shaped in the Emmitt Smith mold (5-9, 188 pounds), has run for 1,457 yards — 203 in last week’s 10-point triumph against Pace. Six players, led by 6-3 Wake Forest-bound senior Jared Crump (40 catches, 877 yards), have at least 19 receptions.
But the cornerstone is Peterman, a 6-2 right-hander who has thrown for nearly 4,500 yards and 52 TDs the past two seasons. This year, he’s completing 64 percent of his passes.
“He’s got height, he can make every throw on the field, he’s athletic, can really move around. But the best attribute he has is his leadership ability,” said Bears coach Darrell Sutherland, a Virginia Tech alumnus and the only coach in the program’s 12-year history.
“He’s a competitive guy who can rally his teammates around him. …And as great a football player as he is, he’s just as quality a young man.”
Speaking of quality, consider Bartram’s schedule. Three of its regular-season foes made the playoffs, and two of its three postseason victories have come on the road. Its only defeat was a 26-10 loss to District 4 rival St. Augustine.
But two weeks ago, the Bears scored a 27-24 victory against Lake City Columbia, which knocked St. Augustine from the playoffs. No hyperbole, just hard facts.
“(Armwood) is a really good football team and there’s no one (element) that you can say, ‘Boy, we’ve got to take that away.’ They’re very well-rounded,” Sutherland said.
“But our kind of rallying cry for the season has been, ‘Pursue excellence.’ It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, just go out and focus on doing our best and doing our job.”
Coach: Darrell Sutherland (12th season)
How it advanced: d. Orange Park Ridgeview 62-10, Lake City Columbia 27-24, Pace 34-24
Bartram Trail’s previous best: Lost to Kissimmee Osceola 27-21 in 5A state semis in 2007
Players to watch: QB Nathan Peterman (2,345 passing yards, 32 TDs); RB Gabe Johnson (1,457 rushing yards, 17 TDs); WR Jared Crump (40 catches, 877 yards); WR Bobby Walker (41 catches, 555 yards); LG Jesse Burkett (6-4, 280)
Photo: Gary McCullough, St. Augustine Record