TAMPA — Two weeks after losing a home opener for the first time in 13 years, Armwood had to regroup for an even bigger challenge.
The Hawks had to travel to powerhouse Plant, which was ranked No. 1 in the Tampa Bay Times' HomeTeam 15 power rankings and had not lost a regular-season game at home in eight years.
Another loss for Armwood would mean its first 0-2 start since 1999.
"I was trying to figure out what I would tell this team if we lost again," Hawks second-year coach Evan Davis said.
He didn't have to worry about that conversation.
Using a barrage of big plays, Armwood took control early and held on for a 21-18 victory at Dad's Stadium.
"This is huge," Hawks sophomore receiver Agiye Hall said.
The Panthers (2-1) pulled out all the stops. They were decked out in all-black uniforms, including new matte black helmets. Former WFLA-Ch. 8 anchor Gayle Sierens was in the press box calling play-by-play and making announcements.
On the field, Plant showed off some new formations, including using beefy lineman Will Putnam as a fullback and even handing off the ball to him three times.
Still, it was no match for the Hawks' big plays.
The first came on the second play from scrimmage when running back Eric Wilson found a huge hole and raced down the sideline on a 96-yard touchdown run to give Armwood a 7-3 lead.
The Panthers' countered behind the running of quarterback Tucker Gleason, who led two scoring drives, including a 1-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to put the Panthers up 10-7.
Back came the Hawks, this time on a 55-yard scoring pass from Cam'ron Ransom to Hall to take a 14-10 halftime lead.
The two hooked up again on a 64-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to make it 21-10.
Plant rallied. Gleason hit Caleb Farris on a 10-yard touchdown pass. Then Gleason connected with Hayden Reed on the two-point conversion to cut it to 21-18 in the fourth quarter.
Armwood got the ball back and went on a time-consuming drive that appeared to seal the win. But the Panthers' Leonard Parker picked off a pass in the end zone and returned it to the 48.
Plant got into field-goal range but the kick was blocked as time expired.
“This was a big confidence boost for us,” Davis said. “We didn’t play our best game against Tampa Bay Tech (in the opener) and we know that. For us to come out tonight and still make mistakes, but play well and get a win, it’s huge for us.”