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Coaches and administrators confirmed Wednesday morning what local prep football fans have been fearing: the Armwood-Plant football rivalry is on hold, for at least two years.
Though Hillsborough County’s 2013-14 public-school schedules still are being finalized, county athletic director Lanness Robinson said several factors forced the halt — at least temporarily — to the ultra-intense rivalry.
Among them: Armwood’s move to a nine-team district (6A-8), leaving it with only two non-district openings on its schedule (Strawberry Crest, Durant). Plant will compete in Class 8A-6, a six-team district.
“Armwood’s in a district that makes it very difficult to schedule things,” Robinson said. “They both wanted to play it. It’s just a matter of logistics, not being able to pull it off.”
The Hawks and Panthers, who have combined for seven on-field state titles in the last decade, have played every year since 2001. Their matchups over the last half-dozen seasons annually have drawn standing-room-only crowds and regional TV audiences.
“We will miss playing Plant,” Hawks coach Sean Callahan said. “No Armwood opponent got us more ready, more excited about the playoffs than Plant.”
Similarly, Panthers coach Robert Weiner said he has "always loved" playing Armwood.
"Plant vs. Armwood always makes both teams better no matter who wins," Weiner added. "And it is hard to play in a better atmosphere and environment. But I certainly understand that there are scheduling constraints and particularly with Armwood having a nine-team district, the logistics can be almost impossible for county athletics to set it up."
The confirmation of the stoppage to the Armwood series means Plant has lost its two biggest draws of the past two regular seasons.
Jesuit first-year coach Matt Thompson confirmed Tuesday the Tigers-Panthers series, played to crowds of roughly 4,000 each of the last two years, won’t be staged in 2013 because a mutually agreeable playing date couldn’t be found.
“There are things that go into the scheduling process: Other games the schools want to have, home-away, other schools open,” Robinson said. “There are only so many weeks in the season.”
Robinson said the Armwood-Plant series potentially could be renewed in the next two-year scheduling cycle (2015-16).
“Absolutely,” he said.
Times staff writer Joel Anderson contributed to this report.