Welcome back, champs.
The past and the present will intersect tonight at Lyle Flagg Field when Armwood honors the 2003 state title team during halftime of the Hawks' 6A region final against visiting Springstead.
"This is something that we've wanted to do for awhile now," Hawks coach Sean Callahan said. "We thought the best time would be around the (Thanksgiving) holidays."
In 2003, it was the Hawks who feasted on all those in their way. Armwood went 15-0 that season and became the first Hillsborough County team since 1969 to bring home a state championship.
"We broke the door down for Hillsborough County," said Evan Davis, the current offensive coordinator who was a backup quarterback for the Hawks in 2003. "It had been 34 long years and we ended (the drought)."
The 2003 team will enjoy a pregame meal and tour the facility that looks much different than when they played, before being recognized during a halftime ceremony.
"Some of them have never seen the new field house or weight room," Davis said. "It will be good for our kids now to see them and understand the legacy they built and the tradition they started."
Davis said more than 50 players have RSVP'd for the event. He also noted that he speaks with many of the players from that team frequently.
"So really it will be more of a celebration than a reunion," Davis said. "A lot of us have a close relationship, especially the seniors from that year."
The face of that team — as well as the 2004 squad that also won a state title — was a backfield known as BMW: running backs Kalvin Bailey and Demetrius McCray and quarterback Jameel Williams. The trio became the first teammates in Hillsborough County history to rush for at least 1,400 yards, led by Bailey's 1,733.
"They were a special group," Callahan said. "Amazing."
Back then, Armwood ran the triple option and it was nearly unstoppable. The Hawks averaged just under 400 yards rushing during the regular season. Ten players from the 2003 team went on to play in college, six were first-team all state. Armwood scored 40 points at least nine times, including a 44-14 win against Miami Booker T. Washington in the state semifinals.
"No one had ever gone down to Miami and put it on them like that," Davis said.
Armwood then beat Lake Gibson, led by future USF star QB Matt Grothe, 29-21 in the state finals. Police cruisers met the team bus at the county line that night and escorted the Hawks back to campus.
"It was almost 1 (a.m.) but there were 500 or so fans waiting there for us," Davis said. "It's something you'll never forget."
In addition to recognizing the historic accomplishments of the 2003 team, there is another memorable connection tonight — Callahan's first playoff victory came against Springstead in 1996.
"I remember thinking back then, how could it get any better (than winning state in 2003)?" Callahan said. "Now that we're 10 years removed and playing Springstead, it's pretty special to be able to look back. It should be a great night."
Brandon Wright can be reached at [email protected]