Armwood and Plant, which once made up the top football rivalry in Tampa Bay, are back on each other's schedule. Kind of. Hawks coach Sean Callahan said the teams have agreed to meet in a preseason classic Aug. 22 at Plant's Dads Stadium.
Last year, Plant and coach Robert Weiner played Tallahassee Godby in a preseason classic. The Panthers needed a game for this year, and Armwood was able to get out of its two-year contract with Cross City.
"I said, 'Robert, we need to play.' You're not going to find a better game," Callahan said.
Armwood was 14-1 last season, its loss coming in the Class 5A state final. Plant (11-2-1) lost in the region final to Apopka.
Armwood's move to a nine-team district last year bumped Plant off its schedule for the first time since 2000. Their matchups, especially in the latter half of the decade, were often standing-room affairs, and a few were televised by ESPN.
The teams have combined for seven state championships.
"It just makes sense to play," Callahan said.
While the game won't count on either team's official record because it's a preseason game, Callahan said his Hawks will play it like a regular-season game — at least for one half and two series in the third quarter.
From there, the teams will bring in 22 new players, a combination of backups and junior varsity players, to finish it.
Armwood Terriers? Hillsborough Hawks?
Callahan had to outfit some of his bigger-headed linemen with extra-large Hillsborough High helmets — on loan from Terriers coach Earl Garcia.
Callahan said when he sent his helmets to be refurbished after last season, a handful of XLs did not come back. He said he told the county, but apparently none were ordered and won't be until after spring.
As a result, a few of the linemen will wear Hillsborough's red helmets — minus any decals or letter H's, mind you — for the rest of this month and the spring jamboree.
"I called Earl and asked if he had a few extras, and he did. So that was good," Callahan said Thursday, the first official day of practice for most schools around the state.
Grateful for the save from a fellow coach, Callahan couldn't help but chuckle as Evan Montreuil, working out at center and wearing a Hillsborough helmet, snapped the ball to his blue-helmeted quarterback, Noah Johnson.
Former Armwood quarterback Josh Grady, now at Vanderbilt but home and checking in at his alma mater, smiled and shook his head.
"It just don't look right, man," he said.
Familiar digs at King
After five years as a King assistant, Trey Thomas had no problems in his first practice as coach. "I feel right at home," he said.
Since taking over in late February, Thomas said his Lions have had the best offseason in his tenure at the school. A core of 45-50 kids showed up in the weight room to help improve a program that finished 6-4 last year.
Late in his first practice, Thomas said he has seen strong play from captain Demetrius Mann, a defensive back who earned MVP honors at some spring camps and combines. "He's going to go far," Thomas said.
Times staff writer Matt Baker contributed to this report.