SEFFNER — In a sense, he is Tebow Lite. In one mesmerizing autumn, Armwood junior Alvin Bailey has dashed, darted and dazzled his way into Hawks lore. He has flourished in the desert, taken snaps in a pinch and excelled in the clutch, amassing more than 2,000 total yards in the process. He has salvaged two playoff triumphs with 11th-hour scores (one run, one pass), and secured others with momentum-altering plays. With this Hawks legacy (former 3,300-yard fullback Kalvin is his big brother), Armwood is still playing the weekend before Christmas. Without him, it’s done before Thanksgiving. To commemorate what will surely go down as one of the greatest individual seasons in Armwood history, we’ve consulted with coaches, fans and even Bailey himself to rank his five top plays of 2011.
5. 88-yard TD run at Jefferson, Sept. 30
A personal favorite of Hawks offensive coordinator Evan Davis. This critical district contest was the first in which Armwood had its full complement of offensive starters, and it showed. Junior first-year quarterback Darryl Richardson, who had been replaced by Bailey the previous three games while sidelined with a bursa-sac injury, struggled a bit as the Hawks built only a 13-0 lead after three quarters. Bailey was re-inserted behind center and, on a zone read, tucked the ball and sprinted nearly the length of the field for the game-sealing score with 9:15 to play. Armwood prevailed 20-0.
4. 66-yard TD catch at Bishop Gorman, Aug. 26
With University of Florida-bound tailback Matt Jones sidelined (knee) for this nationally-televised showdown in Las Vegas, the Hawks totaled 31 yards on their first nine plays from scrimmage. Then Bailey took a 4-yard pass from Richardson on a simple stop route, got a critical block from tailback Greg Newton and dashed 66 yards for the TD. It’s not hyperbole to suggest that play was the game’s difference; Armwood won by only three.
3. 13-yard TD pass vs. Gainesville, Dec. 2
For the second time in three Fridays, the Hawks found their state title hopes palpitating against a team over whom they were clearly favored. Trailing by four with 4:39 to play, Armwood safety Kyle Gibson forced a fumble that Keionne Baines recovered. Three plays later, Bailey — again filling in for the injured Richardson — found Wade Edwards isolated in the end zone for the decisive 13-yard TD in a 17-14 victory. It capped Bailey’s most prolific passing night (202 yards, two TDs, one pick) in the season’s biggest game to date.
2. 85-yard TD run vs. Bartram Trail, Dec. 9
The personal favorite of Bailey and coach Sean Callahan. The Hawks were down 10-6 after giving up a fluky TD on a tipped pass when Bailey — lined up at QB — made seemingly every Bartram defender miss on his way to the end zone. “I made it on my own but my teammates were there to witness it, so I was just like, ‘Dang, I’m really an athlete and my teammates can see that now,’ ” Bailey said. Times columnist (and Armwood parent) Ernest Hooper is even more eloquent: “Alvin’s plays aren’t just scores, they’re tone setters and counter punches.” This one certainly was; Armwood never trailed again en route to a 46-38 victory.
1. 65-yard TD run vs. Lakewood Ranch, Nov. 18
Without this play, Armwood has Thanksgiving — not to mention the rest of 2011 — off. Only days before, the Hawks had just been leveled with the news that they were under a Florida High School Athletic Association investigation, and the effects of the distraction were palpable. With 3:10 to play, Armwood found itself trailing .500 Lakewood Ranch after surrendering its 28th unanswered point. That’s when Bailey, again at QB, darted to his right on a simple zone read and raced for the season-saving score in a 35-31 win. “I really wasn’t too worried,” Callahan said afterward, “because we had Alvin Bailey on our team.”
Orlando’s Citrus Bowl, Saturday
Admission: $12 per session
Class 6A: Armwood vs. Miami Central, 1 p.m.
Class 8A: Plant vs. Miramar, 7 p.m.
On the Web: We’ll have live updates via Twitter (@LauraHomeTeam) and a scoreboard at tampabay.com/hometeam.
Joey Knight can be reached at email@example.com