SEFFNER — When Armwood quarterback Noah Johnson dropped back on third and 11 in triple overtime, he saw Bartram Trail's pass rush approaching fast.
He looked up a moment later and spotted a hole.
"It just opened up," Johnson said.
So he ran through it, up the middle, then left. By the time he extended the ball in front of him, he had raced his way into Hawks history.
His only touchdown run of the game was the winner in Armwood's 35-28, triple-overtime victory in Friday's Class 6A state semifinal. The Hawks advance to play national power Miami Central next Saturday at 1 p.m. for the state championship.
"When things break down, that's the beauty of having Noah Johnson," Armwood coach Sean Callahan said.
The Hawks (14-0) needed Johnson and a complete team effort to get by the pesky Bears (8-6), who had won their past eight games to set up a rematch of the 2011 state semifinal.
Armwood's offense was outgained 351-271. The Bears had more first downs (15-9) and forced the Hawks into five consecutive three-and-outs in the middle of the game. But Armwood prevailed, as usual, with its defense.
Standout linebacker Jordan Griffin returned an interception 3 yards for a touchdown on Bartram Trail's first offensive play. Nehemiah Miguel and Dakari Hodges added picks off Bears quarterback PJ Blazejowski.
Armwood extended its lead to 14-0 late in the first quarter with a little bit of luck. Johnson's pass ricocheted off Hunter Zilbar's body and Trevor Laurent swooped in just in time to finish the 12-yard touchdown.
"We're pushing it as far as we can," Callahan said.
But the Bears from St. Johns County pushed right back. They drove 80 yards in five plays to start the second half and finally got on the board with a 1-yard rush by David Coleman.
Bartram Trail tied it with a 79-yard drive capped by the first of Blazejowski's two touchdown passes.
Armwood had a chance to win in the closing minutes, but kicker Sterling Hofrichter's 53-yard field goal fell short.
"I told them before the game, be ready for overtime," Callahan said.
His Hawks were. They scored on their third play, a 10-yard touchdown pass from Johnson to Zilbar just inside the pylon.
After Bartram Trail answered with a pass from Blazejowski to Angel Toyens, Armwood responded with Caylan Holloway's 10-yard rush.
The Bears tied it at 28 with Blazejowski's 5-yard draw, setting up Johnson's heroics — and a final stand by the defense.
"They had to respond," Callahan said.
After Bartram Trail threw two incompletions, star junior Byron Cowart led a fierce pass rush up the middle that swallowed Blazejowski for a 7-yard loss. Armwood sophomore Dederallo Blue broke up Blazejowski's final pass to seal the Hawks' sixth state title-game berth since 2003 and complete a game Callahan called one of the best he has ever experienced.
"It's unbelievable, man," Johnson said. "It's unbelievable, man."
Matt Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.