On the field, Sean Callahan has won 40 playoff games at Armwood, and this week is a reminder where it all started.
In 1996, the Hawks won the first playoff game in school history with a 24-7 victory over Springstead.
The quarterback for Armwood that game, Joey Gerena, is currently the Hawks’ wide receivers coach. In that first playoff win, Gerena ran for a 63-yard touchdown and passed for 105 yards.
“We were so excited to get that first win. That was, like, ridiculously exciting,’’ Callahan said. “The first time is always going to be special.”
Since that first win, Armwood has won two state championships and established itself locally and nationally as a power.
Ironically, Springstead’s primary goal back in 1996 was stopping the Armwood veer-option offense.
Friday, that’s Armwood’s primary goal.
How rare is it for a Hernando County team to play a Hillsborough County team in the playoffs?
Central, Nature Coast, Hernando and Springstead have played 31 playoff games, and just three of those have been against Hillsborough competition.
Springstead played Armwood in 1996, Hernando met Jesuit in 1999 and Central faced Jefferson in 2000.
The teams from Hillsborough are 3-0, outscoring the Hernando teams 98-30.
No stopping short
Sickles coach Brian Turner probably doesn’t have fond memories of Friday’s opponent, Kissimmee Osceola.
In 2007, as an assistant at Chamberlain where father Billy was the head coach, the Chiefs fell short, 14-7, in a region final.
On the last play of the game, quarterback Dontae Aycock was stopped just a few feet short of the goal line.
Counting on the defense
Osceola runs the triple option, with which Turner is very familiar. While at Chamberlain, they installed the same offense and it led to some of the school’s best seasons.
Turner said Wednesday that the Kowboys remind him athletically of Tampa Bay Tech and run a lot of the same stuff East Bay does.
That might be good news for the Gryphons, who beat both teams by a combined score of 62-8.
“Their quarterback (Daequan Harrison, 715 rushing yards) is the fastest kid I’ve seen,’’ Turner said. “And they have a big fullback (sophomore Laderrien Wilson, 863 yards, 12 touchdowns) we have to tackle. But our defense is good. We can stop them. We have a great plan, so if we can’t, they are just a better team than us.”
The Gryphons defense has been an underrated unit this season. While Josh Black is the big name, Turner said guys like linebackers Wes Harris and Anthony Janezic and safety Mike Smith have been the glue.
“Everyone knows Josh Black, but those guys have made the same amount of plays,’’ Turner said. “Those are the guys that keep the team together. We couldn’t get it done without them.”
Turner said the Gryphons will practice at 8:30 a.m. Thanksgiving morning. “You play to practice Thanksgiving week, we told the kids at the beginning to be ready for this,’’ said Turner, who will then head over to his sister’s where almost 40 members of the huge Turner clan will gather for dinner.
Climbing the ladder
Sickles’ Ray Ray McCloud III is chasing Lydell Ross’ Tampa Bay single-season record of 2,698 yards. He enters Friday’s game against Osceola with 2,262 yards.
The next guy he’ll pass on the all-time single-season list will be former Robinson star Zain Gilmore, who rushed for 2,322 yards in 1997 on his way to Mr. Football honors.
Photo: Sickles' Josh Black