GAINESVILLE — All season, Armwood endured inexperience, injuries and off-field struggles that threatened to ruin the defense of its vacated Class 6A state championship.
The Hawks limped through its worst regular season in 10 years, two narrow postseason victories and, finally, onto the field of an opponent that had been waiting more than a year to exact vengeance.
In the end, it was all too much: top-ranked Gainesville punished Armwood into submission Friday.
Rapheal Webb rushed for 214 yards and three touchdowns and Tony James added 137 and another score to send the host Hurricanes to a 42-10 win over Armwood in the Class 6A region final.
“It was going to have to end at some point,” Hawks coach Sean Callahan said. “We came in banged up and it only got worse from there.”
Armwood (9-4) suffered the worst playoff loss in school history and had not been beaten so badly since a 63-0 defeat to Jefferson in 2001.
This is the Hawks’ earliest playoff exit since 2006, when they lost to Plant in the region semifinals.
Gainesville (13-0), which will face Navarre in the semifinals next Friday, had been waiting for retribution since its 17-14 loss to Armwood in last year’s region final.
The Hurricanes’ players and coaches had billed Friday as their “redemption game.”
They enjoyed revenge in front of their home crowd at Citizens Field, where they have won 29 of their past 30 games and turned this one into a rout early in the third quarter.
“It’s been a year coming,” Gainesville coach James Thomson said. “I’m glad they made it this far.”
They did but just barely, winning their first two playoff games by a total of six points and playing through injuries to quarterback Alvin Bailey (toe), defensive lineman Zeric Coleman (leg) and linebackers Marcus Jacobs (ankle) and Jordan Griffin (forearm).
Not long after the opening kickoff Friday, the injuries continued to mount: Bailey was limited; Griffin went out with a leg injury; Jacobs couldn’t stay on the field; Coleman reinjured his leg; fullback Ronnie Cohen also went down with a leg injury; and defensive back Anthony McNealy left the game after a thunderous collision with Webb in the fourth quarter.
It all took its toll: Armwood, which had allowed more than 21 points only once this season, surrendered three touchdowns by halftime.
James finished off an 11-play, 82-yard drive near the end of the second quarter, shedding two tacklers en route to a 28-yard touchdown that essentially put away the game early.
“It wasn’t a surprise to us,” James said. “We came out and punished them.”
Callahan pointed out that, for most of the game, he was playing freshman — 205-pound Eric Frazier — at middle linebacker.
“I’ve never seen so many injuries,” Callahan said. “Eventually it was going to catch up with us.”
Once the Hawks fell behind early, they were ill-equipped to rally against a Gainesville defense that had allowed only 55 points in its previous eight games.
Bailey, who was clearly lacking explosiveness because of his injury, was held to minus-7 yards on 12 attempts and completed 10 of 27 passes for 127 — most coming after the outcome was no longer in doubt.
The Hawks didn’t get into the end zone until late in the third quarter, trailing 35-3. Bailey found Caylan Holloway streaking down the middle of the field for a 30-yard touchdown reception.
“We had a few nicks and bruises but we can’t make excuses,” said Bailey, a Florida commit who will return to Gainesville next fall. “This is definitely not the way I wanted it to end.”