Most players have some sort of pregame ritual.
More often than not, it involves some sort of superstition like eating the same meal as the week before. But Armwood's receiving corps has an unusual routine.
"We spend Thursday night over at (receivers) Coach (Isaac) Anderson's house," wideout Ronnie Thomas said. "We just hang out and get ready for Friday."
Wait, you mean the same coach who chews you out in practice and makes you do all that extra running?
"We all have a special bond with him," receiver Alvin Bailey said. "He expects a lot of us and can get on us at times, but he treats us like grown men."
Jevonte Sneed, Thomas and Bailey hope to get one more Thursday night hangout before next weekend's state championship game but to do so, the Hawks (13-0) will have to defeat visiting Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer (13-0) when the teams meet at Lyle Flagg Field tonight at 7:30 in the Class 4A state semifinals.
"That time we get to spend together every week has made us all closer, like brothers," Bailey said.
When the four meet up at Anderson's house, they talk a lot of football, watch movies and, of course, play video games.
"Ronnie's the best at Madden (11)," Sneed said, pointing toward Thomas.
Part of the reason Anderson and his receivers have connected is the age difference, or lack thereof. Anderson, 24, starred in the defensive backfield for the Hawks' back-to-back 2003-04 state championship teams. He picked off 15 passes in those two seasons, earning all-state honors both years.
"Even when (Anderson) gets mad at us for something in practice, we know he's teaching us and he has our back," Sneed said. "He cares about us on and off the field."
Before games Anderson can usually be found bouncing through the locker room jamming his iPod, firing up his receivers.
"When coach gets all geeked up," Sneed said. "We get all geeked up."
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With dual-threat quarterback Josh Grady under center and Division I prospect Matt Jones at tailback, Armwood's receivers sometimes are overlooked — especially when the best of the bunch barely touched the field this season. Purdue-commited A.J. King tore his ACL in the preseason and was eventually lost for the year.
"Not only was A.J. my best player, he was also a coach out on the field," Anderson said. "The guys respected him. To get yelled at by a coach is one thing, but to have a peer do it is another and A.J. knew when to get after these guys."
But a unit that looked to be a question mark following King's injury quickly turned into a strength as Thomas and Bailey, both sophomores, emerged as weapons. Sneed, one of the team's fastest players, adds another dimension to an offense equally adept at passing and running.
"We expect offensive domination," Sneed said. "Every week."
Bailey leads the team in both catches (32) and receiving yards (591) to go along with six touchdowns. Thomas has hauled in 24 balls for 475 yards and a team-high eight scoring touchdowns. Thomas also caught an 80-yard TD last week from Grady in the Hawks 28-12 win against Charlotte.
"Alvin is just a natural playmaker; he can do it all," Anderson said. "On the other hand, Ronnie is the best athlete I have and his best asset is how coachable he is."
Anderson called Sneed "his most physical player," and lauded his blocking skills.
"Jevonte is just vicious," Anderson said. "He's a converted running back so he's a late-bloomer, but he loves to hit."
Armwood will need all the weapons in its arsenal when Dwyer comes to town tonight. The Panthers pasted the Hawks 41-15 in the state semifinals last season, knocking Armwood out of the playoffs.
And for the Hawks, tonight can't get here fast enough.
"We've been thinking about Dwyer since day one," Sneed said. "Day No. 1."