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Armwood taking its place in history

When it comes to judging which football teams rank among the best in county history, there are few people whose credentials match those of longtime Hillsborough High coach Earl Garcia. Since the Florida High School Athletic Association began holding playoffs for football in 1963, only six county teams have won state; Garcia has coached or played against four of them.

He calls this year's Armwood squad the best he has seen.

And added, "it's not even close."

Tonight at home against Winter Haven, the nationally ranked Hawks (10-0) begin their quest to claim the program's third state championship (they won titles in 2003 and '04). But perhaps there is something greater at stake. With five more wins, Armwood could go down as the greatest team the area has ever produced.

"They've got my vote right now," Garcia said.

Armwood's numbers this season aren't just good, they're downright scary.

Offensively, the Hawks have scored 390 points, are blessed with one of the state's top quarterbacks in Mywan Jackson (1,887 total yards, 28 touchdowns), have a consistently overpowering offensive line and possess more quality skill players than they've ever had.

The defense has been even more dominant. As a team, the Hawks have allowed 42 points, but only 33 were surrendered by the defense, which is led by a relentless defensive line but is strong throughout.

"Physically, there's nobody (defensively) in Florida as good as they are," legendary Chamberlain coach Billy Turner said. "Show me a team in Florida that can do what they've done."

Because the Hawks have been so ridiculously good this fall, one has to seriously wonder if anyone in Class 4A has a chance to beat them.

"I think they would have to self-destruct to lose the championship," Garcia said.

Armwood coach Sean Callahan isn't ready to anoint this group, ranked No. 3 in the country by Rivals.com and No. 4 by USA Today, as the best ever locally or even the best in program history. But, he admits, he has never had more talent assembled at one time.

As many as 10 members of the senior class, headlined by heralded prospects such as Jackson, defensive end Ryne Giddins, linebacker Petey Smith and safety Angelo Hadley, are likely to sign with Division I-A or I-AA programs in February.

"These guys can turn it on and off as good as any group I've been around," Callahan said.

Armwood | 2003

Record: 15-0, Class 4A state champs

Key players: QB Jameel Williams; DL Jarriett Buie

Key stat: Three players rushed for more than 1,000 yards.

Skinny: The Hawks became the first Tampa Bay team to win state since Pasco in 1992 and the first from Hillsborough since Blake and Pinecrest in 1969.

Armwood | 2004

Record: 13-1, Class 4A state champs

Key players: QB Jameel Williams; FB Kalvin Bailey

Key stat: Hawks produced four 60-point games.

Skinny: Armwood was the first team in Hillsborough County history to earn back-to-back state titles.

Plant | 2006

Record: 15-0, Class 4A state champs

Key players: QB Robert Marve; DB Chris Kuzdale

Key stat: Topped 30-point mark 11 times.

Skinny: Plant's gutsy group beat Armwood, Miami Washington and Ponte Vedra Beach Nease in succession to claim title.

State titles in Hillsborough

1968: Jesuit

1969: Blake

1969: Lithia Pinecrest

2003: Armwood

2004: Armwood

2006: Plant

Armwood taking its place in history 11/20/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 20, 2008 10:40pm]

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