While game-planning for Armwood's vaunted defense, most opposing teams have come to the same conclusion: To move the ball, one must at all costs avoid the side of the field occupied by Ryne Giddins, a heralded defensive end, and Petey Smith, arguably the area's top linebacker. In theory, this seems logical. In practice, it rarely works. That's because Casey Callahan is waiting for them.
"I like when they do that," said Callahan, a linebacker. "That's how I make all my tackles."
On some defenses, Callahan would be the centerpiece. At Armwood, he lives in relative anonymity. Giddins recently was named the CSTV national defensive player of the year. Smith has narrowed his choices to Auburn and No. 1-ranked Alabama. Safety Angelo Hadley has scholarship offers from programs such as Georgia and Michigan.
Jealously, however, is not an issue for Callahan.
"I like it," Callahan said. "I'm playing around the best, and they bring out the best in me. That makes you a better player in the long run."
Callahan might get little attention, but make no mistake, he can play.
During the Hawks' run to the state semifinals last year, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound senior, who committed to Division I-AA Stony Brook earlier this year, was tops on the squad in tackles. This fall, despite missing two games with a shoulder injury, he is once again among the team's leaders (he had 12 last week in a win over Tampa Bay Tech).
"Last year when we lost Petey for a little bit, everybody thought it was easier against us," said Sean Callahan, Armwood's coach and Casey's father. "But we didn't miss a beat."
Casey Callahan's stellar play, as one might expect, greatly pleases his father. But that doesn't mean he's any easier on his son.
"He's got an eye on me at all times," Casey Callahan said.
The elder Callahan disputed that accusation by saying simply, "That's everybody," before adding, "I don't have to worry about him."
For the Hawks, Casey Callahan has personified consistency. Known as one of the team's most sure-handed tacklers, his on-field mistakes have been few and far between. He's big. He's strong. He moves well. And he's smart.
Still, "a lot of teams overlook him," Smith said.
The ones that do have paid the price.
"When you underestimate Casey, he'll come up and bite you," Giddins said.