TAMPA — When he slipped in the silvery disc of his team's season-opening, one-point loss at Jefferson, Hillsborough coach Earl Garcia really was watching a DVD: Downright Vile Debacle.
In addition to some special-teams blunders and an 11th-hour defensive collapse, Garcia saw an offense he deemed "horrendous."
"It was a comedy of errors, it really was," Garcia said.
Fast forward seven weeks, and the Terriers' offense is neither comedy nor horror flick. To the contrary, quarterback Tarean Austin said, it has graduated to an entirely different genre.
"It's fun to watch," he said. "When you get a ticket, you already know you're coming to a big show. It's like you're in a movie theater watching a big action movie."
Like any big-budget thriller, the action hasn't been terribly true to life.
In its five games since the Jefferson meltdown, Hillsborough (6-1, 1-0) has averaged 53.6 points. Through six contests, Austin has thrown for 15 touchdowns, running back Rodney Johnson has averaged 11.9 yards a carry, and six receivers have caught at least six passes.
But the combined record of the Terriers' past five opponents is 7-25. Three of those teams — Gaither, Chamberlain and Blake — have combined for one victory.
"We try to keep it in perspective," Garcia said.
Just how well the Hillsborough "big action movie" plays to a Seffner audience is anyone's guess. A true gauge of the Terriers' formidability comes tonight at Armwood (6-1, 1-0) in what is, for all intents, the Class 4A, District 9 championship game.
The Hawks defense, younger than normal but fierce as ever, has allowed 32 points all season and is surrendering fewer than 65 yards a contest. With that in mind, will we see the Hillsborough team that coughed it up at Jefferson (three interceptions) or the one that ran it up on Gaither (68 points)?
The answer may lie somewhere in between. Just be sure and bring your 3D glasses. This Terriers offense is loaded with dimensions.
Austin (62-for-101, 1,265 yards) is the county's fourth-leading passer despite the fact he has the fewest attempts — by far — of anyone in the top five, and Johnson leads a ground attack that averages nearly 200 yards a game. There's also the veteran offensive line Austin says "is the best thing we have going on right now."
While diminutive junior Charles Lovett (24 catches, 679 yards, seven TDs) has evolved into one of the best Terriers receivers ever, Garcia notes the other wideout, 6-foot-3 senior Jordan Duval (11 receptions), possesses hands as good as Lovett's. And when Hillsborough goes to the spread, elite triple jumper Carlton Walton or two-way Division I speedster Terrence Mitchell can slide into a slot position.
"Those are some pretty dang good names right there," Garcia said. "Our scheme is pretty basic, but at the same time we feel like we can take advantage of the blitz scheme which is what Armwood's going to do to us every down."
Blitz vs. burners. Pressure vs. prolificness.
Bring your popcorn.
"The kids are confident, they really are," Garcia said. "We told them to be in a big game you have to have played well, and we have played well. Had we not played very well this game would be far less meaningful than it is this week."