SEFFNER — Armwood senior inside linebacker Keionne Baines has numbers that jump off the page: team-leading 132 total tackles, 11 for loss, five pass breakups, four hurries three sacks, three picks, two caused fumbles and one season-saving recovery.
But when coach Sean Callahan first saw Baines on film when he transferred from East Bay last winter, he wasn’t impressed. In fact, Callahan released him from the team.
“We’re happy he’s here but, again, he’s a kid who came here, we didn’t know what we were doing, he was nothing where he was at and on film, he never really looked that good,” Callahan said Tuesday.
After less-than-impressive results and attendance at offseason workouts in early spring, Baines was told not to come back. But his father, Ken, talked to him and talked to Callahan, and he was given a second chance about a week later.
“I wasn’t used to it,” said Baines. “He (Callahan) doesn’t take nothing from nobody.”
Next, the coaching staff had to find him a position. Baines had the talent to break into the Hawks’ group of top 22 players — not everyone can do flips while wearing full equipment — but as Hillsborough coach Earl Garcia and Plant’s Robert Weiner said this year, the Armwood lineup, especially on defense, has no obvious weak spots. At East Bay, Baines had primarily played fullback. The Armwood staff tried him there then at outside linebacker and safety.
Finally, defensive coordinator Matt Thompson convinced Callahan to move Baines to his current position, one that had plenty of depth but was Baines’ preference: inside linebacker.
“Bishop Gorman on,” Callahan said, referring to the first game of the season, “he’s been just flying high.”
Baines flew for the first time in his life as the Hawks (13-0) jetted to Las Vegas to take on the top-ranked team in Nevada on Aug. 26. There, he posted a season-high 14 tackles as the Hawks survived 21-17. The Armwood defense wouldn’t give up another point until an Oct. 20 matchup against Hillsborough. After building a 24-0 lead, the Terriers fought back to make it 24-16.
That made Baines angry.
“He got upset when Hillsborough was coming back on us the first time we played them, and the next thing you know, Antonio McCullough picks six. Then he picks six. He can do that,” Callahan said.
“He’s kind of like the old Miami. He’s just, really, a different kind of animal.”
It’s only fitting then that a current Miami staff member was at the practice field next to Lyle Flagg Stadium to watch Baines on Tuesday. Callahan and Thompson helped teach Baines how to make those plays that compose a recruiting DVD, and they’ve set him on the right path in the classroom, too.
“Before, I didn’t really take class serious,” Baines said. “I didn’t really take school serious, really. Like when I got here, it’s part of it, you’ve got to get your schoolwork done to get to the next level.”
Armwood has one last goal before scores of Hawks soar off to play college ball: win the Class 6A state title. It took a fumble recovery by Baines last week to keep Armwood alive, as the Hawks turned the turnover into a winning score against Gainesville. Now, the undefeated Hawks have plenty of doubters as they get set to host St. Johns Bartram Trail (12-1).
That’s fine by Baines.
“I like doubters,” he said. “If we do what we have to do, win the state championship, then I want to see what they say.”