SEFFNER — The receiving corps at Armwood High was hit hard by graduation. The Hawks had to replace Jerome Ford (now at Alabama) and Warren Thompson (Florida State).
It seemed an impossible task to find a pair of receivers able to simulate the speed of Ford (4.1 seconds in the 40-yard dash) and the size of Thompson (6-foot-3).
Still, Armwood was able to do it with the addition of just one player.
This offseason, Agiye Hall came from Durant High via transfer (he lives across the street from Armwood).
Listed at 6 feet 3 inches and 185 pounds, Hall is the total package at wide receiver: big enough to out-muscle any defensive back for a catch, and fast enough to outrun any of them once he has the ball.
Those physical tools made the coaching staff swoon.
"Agiye has every attribute you are looking for," coach Evan Davis said. "He has the speed of Jerome Ford and the size of Warren Thompson. How often are you going to find that?"
And the bigger the game, the better Hall performs.
He had two catches, both for long touchdowns, in a win over powerhouse Plant in the regular season. In the past two playoff games, Hall has a combined 13 catches for 408 yards and four touchdowns.
Hall's penchant for big plays has played a crucial role in the Hawks (13-1) advancing to the Class 6A state final for the second straight season.
The scary thing for opponents is that Hall has plenty of time to get better.
After all, he is only a sophomore.
"I'm just scratching the surface," Hall said.
Growing up, Hall played basketball and track. Once he tried football, nothing else mattered.
He started by roaming around at just about every position in youth leagues.
"I played everything," he said.
Because of the talent at Armwood, Hall did not think he would get much playing time. So he enrolled at Durant. Initially, Hall wanted to be a running back.
On the field, Hall is electric.
That much the Hawks knew when Hall came in the second semester last school year.
What Armwood also discovered about its newfound star was he more eclectic off the field.
Hall likes reptiles, such as lizards and snakes. He wants to get a boa constrictor as a pet, but has yet to find the courage to ask his mother.
Hall also prefers rock over any other music genre. His favorite song is In the Air Tonight by Phil Collins. He wants to learn how to play that one on his guitar, as well as Purple Rain by Prince.
"I'll learn how to play those songs soon," Hall said. "I just haven't had much time because I've been so busy with football."
All that preparation has led to Saturday afternoon. Hall and his teammates will be playing in Orlando's Camping World Stadium in a rematch against Miami Northwestern (9-5).
Will Hall's youth be helpful or detrimental for the Hawks on high school football's biggest stage?
"There really are not any nerves," Hall said. "It's just another game to me. There will be a lot more fans. It'll be a little bit more loud. And a lot more expectations.
"I'm just trying to live up to those expectations."
Hall is not the only tenth-grader in the starting lineup for Armwood. There are several others who have starring roles.
QB Cam'ron Ransom: The Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic transfer has showed off his touch on deep passes, especially to Hall. Ransom has thrown for 1,724 yards, 25 touchdowns and just five interceptions this season. He also is a threat as a runner with 412 yards and seven scores.
DL Desmond Watson: The younger brother of former Armwood and current Oregon standout Darrian McNeal is becoming a force in the trenches. He has 44 tackles, six sacks and three forced fumbles.
RB/LB Mario Hunt-Cruz: A versatile player, Hunt-Cruz has 34 yards rushing in what has become a crowded backfield. He also has 21 tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles on defense.
Class 6A state final
Armwood (13-1) vs. Miami Northwestern (9-5), 3 p.m. Saturday
Camping World Stadium, Orlando