TAMPA — As their eighth game in seven searing hours concluded, they panted and perspired, hands on hips, totally out of breath and resurgence.
Prior to that, the Boca Ciega Pirates had spent a humid west Tampa day capturing lightning in a Battle.
Trounced by Tampa Bay Tech and Nature Coast in their first two contests Saturday morning, the Pirates rallied for five consecutive wins, leaving little in the tank for the inaugural Battle of the Bay 7-on-7 tournament final — sponsored by Unsigned Preps and HomeTeam — at Jefferson High.
Pouncing on the Pirates' fatigue, Armwood coasted to a 25-0 victory, but not before coach Antez Brinson's team harnessed a day's supply of mettle that could come in handy this fall.
"I'm really, really proud of my kids, the way they fought," said Brinson, whose team rallied for wins against Alonso, Gaither, Largo (in overtime), Dixie Hollins and Nature Coast (25-10 in the semifinals).
"We started off slow, and notoriously that's our Achilles' heel, whether we're in 7-on-7 tournaments or...if you look at us at the beginning of the season last year, we started slow (1-4) but we always found a way to finish strong (5-5).
"We want to continue to build on that."
Armwood, meantime, continued building around new quarterback Noah Johnson, who earned overall MVP honors as the Hawks went undefeated in eight games.
Among Johnson's highlights: a late 30-yard touchdown strike to Greg Newton — who got behind double coverage — on third down with 30 seconds left to seal a 15-6 semifinal win against Plant. In eight games, the 6-foot, 180-pound junior threw one interception.
"He kind of throws it like Ron Buskey (FAMU), but yet he runs the ball like Mywan Jackson (North Carolina) so I think he's going to be a really good football player for us," said coach Sean Callahan, referring to a pair of former Hawks quarterbacks.
"He gets it. ...This guy is seeing what we're seeing so we know what he's doing."
Yet for all of Johnson's progress, and Callahan said he's seeing it with each 7-on-7 event, defense dictated the day for the Hawks, with junior cornerback Aaron Covington earning the defensive MVP award.
Playing without Division-I defensive end prospect Byron Cowart, Armwood allowed 25 total points in four pool-play victories. Plant's only points in the semifinals came when the Panthers forced three and outs (worth three points each) on Armwood's first two series.
"Our defense is really starting to come along a little bit," Callahan said.