Friday, February 23, 2018
Sports

Column: It's all on the line in Armwood-Jefferson matchup

There is big, bigger — and Armwood at Jefferson. In a week where the high school football schedule lights itself on fire, the Hawks and Dragons will play in the Game of the Season. Not that Tampa Bay Tech at Plant (big) and Lakewood at Largo (bigger) aren't marquee games, but thanks to a nine-team district and a schedule-maker with a cruel sense of timing, there are very few folks — likely confined to the campus of Chamberlain, at this point — who see Friday's showdown at Jefferson as anything but a playoff clincher. "Unless there is a total meltdown," Armwood coach Sean Callahan said, "it should be for a district championship." Here are this week's made-in-heaven matchups:

Big: Plant (3-0-1) at Tampa Bay Tech (2-1)

Tech's greatest claim to fame — like ever — might be its 32-30 victory over the Panthers to open the 2009 season. TBT trailed 24-0 with 7:01 left in the third quarter, but its rally to win might have been the apex in then-coach CC Culpepper's Titan revival. It was really quite something.

The Titans, however, haven't been quite the same against Plant since, going 0-3 and shut out twice.

Why will this year be any different? Well, it may not. Had you asked me in the preseason, I would have liked Tech's chances more than I do now. But this Tech team is equal parts mercurial and maddening, so you never know which Titans will show up — the ones who lost to Newsome or the ones who beat Wiregrass Ranch. Actually, if either of them shows up, the Titans will have a hard time.

But Plant gave up 40 points to Bloomingdale last week, was torched on the ground against Sandy Creek (Ga.) and gave up a slew of big plays to Tallahassee Godby (preseason). The Panthers will fix those things, but will they do it by Friday?

Bigger: Largo (3-1) at Lakewood (3-1)

Back before the Spartans were stunned by Countryside in Week 1 and Largo fell to East Lake the week after that, the Spartans-Packers tilt was Game of the Year material.

In most moments Friday night, there will be as many as a dozen players on the field at once boasting Division I-A scholarship offers — from offensive linemen (Lakewood's Isaiah Wynn) to linebackers (Largo's Frankie Hernandez) to quarterbacks (Lakewood's Joc Ellison and Ryan Davis) to running backs (Largo's Jarvis Stewart).

It really doesn't get much better than this.

Make no mistake; this is not a pure rivalry. This is not a neighborhood clash. There are no district implications. This isn't even for county bragging rights because neither can claim to be No. 1. Heck, these teams haven't even played since 2008.

It is this, though: a battle for the sake of battling, to prove you are better and more legit than the other team. That should be enough to make it great.

Biggest: Armwood (4-0) at Jefferson (3-0)

A district matchup, thanks to the overcrowded Class 6A-8, which has already seen Hillsborough and Robinson practically eliminated four weeks in.

Whoever came up with this schedule — putting all the best games at the front — didn't do the traditional county powers any favors. So boooooo.

The District of Doom is now the District of Zoom. Just like that, the playoff race is all but over.

But this is the week's most perfect matchup — Tampa Bay's best defense against Tampa Bay's most exciting offense. Though both of those points might be arguable.

Jefferson is averaging more than 34 points a game with a dual-threat quarterback, USF commitment Deiondre Porter, who already has more than 1,000 yards of total offense and is one of the fastest signal callers we have ever seen.

Armwood has allowed 14 points, and in 100 carries, the opposition has 55 yards.

Then there's the emotion. Jefferson doesn't like Armwood. While I'm not sure the Hawks feel as strongly, it doesn't matter.

"I don't have any friends over there," Porter said.

Asked if he was sure about that, he said he might have a few — but not until after Friday's game.

John C. Cotey can be reached at [email protected].com or on Twitter @JohnnyHomeTeam.

 
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