Sunday, May 20, 2018
Sports

Overmatched opponents offer different challenge for Armwood

SEFFNER — High school sports programs are grouped into specific classifications in order to make things as fair as possible, at least in the eyes of the Florida High School Athletic Association.

But that theory doesn't always hold water.

Take Armwood's last two opponents.

Although Leto and Lennard are both in Class 6A, District 8 with Armwood based on school enrollment, the Hawks defeated the two teams by the combined score of 123-6.

"I feel sorry for these teams," Armwood coach Sean Callahan said.

Neither the Longhorns or Falcons, who play each other tonight, has won a game since 2011. Lennard won two games that season, and Leto's lone victory came by forfeit — from Armwood of all teams. The Falcons haven't won a game on the field since 2009.

So how in the name of Kennedy Hill is Callahan supposed to get his team ready when these two teams come up on the schedule?

"Oh, it's definitely different," he said. "We have to approach it with the kids in a goal-oriented way. If we try to tell them playing (Leto and Lennard) is just like playing Jefferson and Hillsborough, they would laugh at us."

So what Callahan did was plug in a set of benchmarks for the Hawks to achieve that had nothing to do with the score. Rather than focus on the outcome, which was for all intents and purposes a foregone conclusion, he had his team home in on things like how many turnovers they created.

"Or how many penalties we wanted to keep it under and how many first downs we got," Callahan said. "Then we held them to all of these smalls goals that were set and went back and discussed it."

What it amounted to was the Hawks playing a game inside a game, against themselves.

"What I don't want them to be is happy with the score," Callahan said. "I want them to understand they aren't getting ready to play Leto and Lennard. They are getting ready to play teams like (Miami) Central in the playoffs."

Making all those goals more difficult to reach was the fact both games were under a running clock. Against Leto, that started after the first quarter.

"You don't practice against something like that," Callahan said. "So it changes the goals that much more."

However, it's still difficult to convince a group of teenagers who know two wins are in the bag to go all out.

"We've got a young group this year," Callahan said. "They are good kids, but still immature and are learning how to handle these types of situations. They're not pros, so yeah, it's hard."

The Hawks (7-0) play host to King (5-3) this week, and the Lions should pose a greater challenge. Still, Armwood has produced an average margin of victory of 36.6 points in winning its first seven games. Only time will tell if the lopsided scores will help or hurt the Hawks when they enter the postseason.

Brandon Wright can be reached at [email protected]

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