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Losing season doesn't sit well with Hawks

After four last-second losses, the motto for 2002 is ''Finish it!''

By JEREMY RASMUSSEN

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 6, 2002


After four last-second losses, the motto for 2002 is "Finish it!"

SEFFNER -- Armwood is not used to losing, and coach Sean Callahan wants to make sure it stays that way.

The Hawks struggled to a 4-6 record last season after recording three consecutive playoff appearances from 1998-2000, including the state semifinal in 2000. According to Callahan, however, last year's team was only a couple of plays away from a winning record.

"We lost four games last year that we were winning, and worse than that, we lost in the last 30 seconds," he said. "It was incredible, the way we were losing."

Armwood did have some heartbreakers. For example, against Riverview, the Hawks kicked the winning field goal as time expired, but were forced to accept a dead ball offside call on Riverview. The rekick was not successful and Armwood fell 16-15. The Hawks also fell on last-second plays against King and Brandon.

"I was worried that the team might be getting used to (losing)," Callahan said. "So, this year, our theme is: 'Finish it!"'

THROUGH THE AIR: After taking the reins of the offense midway through last season, Ryan Watts did not necessarily show the leadership capabilities of the quarterback he replaced (John DiNovo). But he did show something else: blazing speed.

"(Watts) is probably the fastest athlete I've ever had," Callahan said. "He runs like Forrest Gump. It's pretty funny looking, but he can go."

Watts has run the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds on grass and 4.4 seconds on the track. Now, with seven games under his belt, Callahan said Watts is starting to mature as a leader as well.

His receivers will be big and strong. Thomas Hair, Mike Williams and Chris Brevi are all taller than 6 feet and can bench press 260 pounds. They're also fast. Hair runs a 4.6.

ON THE GROUND: Watts rushed for 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns in 7 games, making him the only legitimate option in Armwood's option offense last season.

"Last year, we didn't pitch it much," Callahan said. "We didn't have the third option going very well. This year, all three options will be running properly and you will see better numbers."

Sophomore fullback Kalvin Bailey, who started as a freshman, will continue to plow through the line. Watch for wingbacks Cornelius Mitchell and Demetrius McCray to put up big numbers. Although both are smallish in stature, Callahan said pound for pound they are among the strongest running backs he has seen.

DEFENSE: Armwood's philosophy is to swarm to the ball. So anyone that shows a lot of speed and athleticism usually gets a shot.

Callahan said he is looking to junior lineman Fred Hicks and senior linebacker Josh Jenrette to lead the way with big plays. The strong safety, his son, Kirk Callahan, makes the defensive calls.

After getting burned on last-second passing plays against King and Brandon, the Hawks have shored up the secondary with R.J. Anderson and Tivon Jackson. Both are over 6 feet and very fast. THE BIG GAME: Last season's loss to Jefferson was not the last-second variety. It was a downright whippin' as the Dragons handed the Hawks the worst beating in their 16-year history, 63-0. Armwood will have payback on its mind when it faces Jefferson Sept. 13.

ARMWOOD HAWKS

AT A GLANCE

COACH: Sean Callahan (13th season, 70-58).

ASSISTANTS: Miles Bilinski, Todd Gicker, T.J. Laflamboy, Corey Peterson, Bill Stewart, Chris Taylor, Matt Thompson.

COLORS: Royal blue, white and maroon.

STADIUM: Lyle Flagg Stadium, 12000 U.S. Highway 92, Seffner.

CLASS: 4A, District 8.

PLAYOFF HISTORY: 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000.

LAST APPEARANCE: 2000 Beat Sarasota Booker 21-0, beat Haines City 28-21, beat Lake Gibson 17-14, lost to Belle Glade Glades Central 41-15.

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