Four Hillsborough County football teams — Armwood, Chamberlain, Plant and Tampa Catholic — remain alive in the chase for their respective state championships. As this foursome takes the next postseason steps, we look to differentiate between fact and fiction.
Statement: Of the teams still remaining, Chamberlain owns the best big-play offense.
FACT: With all due respect to Armwood and Plant, the Chiefs offense is coming into its own. In Chamberlain's 42-21 win over Wharton, the Chiefs offense had seven plays of 20 yards or more. And six of those plays resulted in Chamberlain touchdowns.
"They just had too many big plays on us," Wharton safety Jairus Jones said. "Most of their touchdowns came on big plays. If we stop them on those, it might have been a closer game."
The Chiefs scored on Kenny Allen runs of 56 and 20 yards, a Dontae Aycock run of 27 yards, Anthony Williams' touchdown catches of 32 and 36 yards and a Lamond Scott reception of 37 yards.
Chamberlain's triple-option rushing attack has always been solid, but with Aycock's 132 passing yards, the Chiefs head to Lakeland having just had their most complete offensive performance of the year. The Dreadnaughts will have to account for both the run and the pass.
Statement: After allowing a season-high 20 points Friday, teams are finding holes in Armwood's defense.
FICTION: Yes, the Titans gave the Hawks a game for three quarters, but let's not forget that Tampa Bay Tech, which only trailed Armwood by nine late in an eventual 50-20 Hawks win, was a 10-win team that meticulously managed to do all the right things to pull out victories.
After allowing just 25 points in their first eight games, the Hawks have allowed 51 in their last four games. That's still an average of 12.7 a game over those four games. Tech gave Armwood its toughest game since the season opener, scoring a touchdown on its first possession and holding the Hawks offense to three first-half points.
If anything, the Armwood defense answered its recent test in a close game. The Hawks blocked two punts, and end Ryne Giddins scored twice on fumble recoveries. In all, the Hawks forced six turnovers — three interceptions and three fumbles — and tallied four sacks. All is well in Seffner, and everyone who follows the Hawks knows they will rely on defense as they go deeper in the playoffs.
Statement: Plant is incapable of winning a smash-mouth football game.
FICTION: The Panthers have played two incredibly physical teams this season and are 1-1 in those contests. They went toe-to-toe with nationally ranked Armwood in a 9-2 season-opening loss, and later hammered Chamberlain in a 27-13 win Oct. 31. Armwood is unbeaten. Chamberlain has just one defeat.
Plant isn't particularly big, but the Panthers play physical on every down on both sides of the ball.
Don't believe us? Ask Bradenton Southeast. The athletically gifted Seminoles were bruised and battered throughout Plant's 13-7 win Friday, finishing with only 116 total yards — and minus 5 on 21 carries. On the flip side, the Panthers gained valuable yards on the ground, particularly with fullback Chris Hesson, as they were trying to run the clock down. The team's improved and underrated offensive line helped paved the way.
Statement: Tampa Catholic's offense hasn't been the same since losing to rival Jesuit in the regular-season finale.
FACT: The Crusaders averaged 36 points during a seven-game winning streak, but after losing to Jesuit, the Tampa Catholic offense hasn't been the same.
In Tampa Catholic's 10-0 victory over Mulberry, the Crusaders were held without an offensive touchdown. Quarterback Christian Green had just 56 passing yards and 28 rushing yards, while running back Henry McCloud had 19 carries for 47 yards. The Crusaders had almost as many punts (six) as completed passes (seven) and missed two field goals.
"I don't know why we weren't in synch offensively," Tampa Catholic coach Bob Henriquez said. "I know we can play better on offense."
Tampa Catholic's defense has recovered from allowing 28 points to Jesuit, yielding nine points in two playoff games. The win over Mulberry was T.C.'s fourth shutout, and T.C. forced three turnovers.