MIAMI - Armwood wasn't even going to let Miami Washington have a chance.
At Washington's homefield, Traz Powell Stadium, with far more fans on the sideline and the confidence of a rallying Miami community, the Tornadoes didn't need any more reasons to celebrate. The Hawks, who pummeled Countryside to get to the semifinals, were determined to shut down Washington early and often, leaving the Tornadoes looking defeated before the first half ended.
Armwood's plan, to keep Washington quarterback Tim Harris Jr. from completing passes, was well-executed. The top-ranked Hawks beat the Tornadoes 44-14 and will enter the Class 4A final undefeated at 14-0.
"This is great for Seffner," Armwood coach Sean Callahan said. "It kind of puts us on the map."
The Hawks began making a name for themselves early in the season, when they made their way to the top of the 4A rankings. They have been an offensive monster all season, using running backs Kalvin Bailey and Demetrius McCray and quarterback Jameel Williams, who each gained more than 1,000 rushing yards in the regular season.
On Friday, it was Bailey's turn to be the most productive, finishing with 138 yards and two scores on 31 carries.
But against the Tornadoes (10-3), the real boon for the Hawks was a defense that has only gotten stronger as the playoffs have continued.
"One thing we didn't want (Harris) to do was complete passes," Callahan said. "We knew if he had to run the ball, he couldn't beat us."
The Hawks defense sacked Harris six times, keeping the lone Tornadoes rusher to 23 yards on the ground.
Glenn Lassiter, Mike Williams and Dougie Thompson each had interceptions, with Thompson running his final-minute pick 4 yards to score. The Hawks also recovered two Washington fumbles, the second one scooped up by defensive lineman Jariette Buie and returned for an 18-yard touchdown.
The Hawks defense might have had the perfect game had they not had a few breakdowns and penalties with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter. That was when Harris saw an opportunity with receiver Ronald Wright and connected for a 64-yard touchdown.
Four minutes later, Charles Arnold caught a 12-yard score from Harris.
The Hawks play Lake Gibson, which defeated Lake City Columbia, for the 4A title on Thursday at 7 p.m. in Gainesville.
- EMILY NIPPSDurant's best season over
DAYTONA BEACH - The goal posts in the south end zone at Daytona Beach Municipal Stadium were tilted slightly to the late right Friday night, the result of an unsuccessful attempt by some Mainland High players to tear them down.
Unfortunately for Durant, the inability to uproot the uprights was about the only thing that went wrong for the Buccaneers all night.
Mainland got every break it needed, passed for key third downs, rushed for touchdowns when necessary and held on just long enough to come away with a 23-14 win in a Class 5A state semifinal. Mainland (12-1) will play Naples on Friday night at 7 p.m. at the University of Florida.
The Cougars were this close to winning the biggest game in school history.
After taking a 7-6 lead into the half, thanks to a Sean Zentmeyer 2-yard run and Mainland's failed pass attempt on a two-point conversion, they tightened down on defense and blocked a Buc field-goal attempt in the third quarter.
Rather than rally the offense, however, Durant's first two possessions flew by in eight plays as the Cougars didn't record their first first down of the second half until Mainland was whistled for roughing the passer just before the end of the third quarter.
By that time the Cougars were trailing 9-7. Three plays later they were forced to punt. Again.
Mainland, meanwhile, garnered four first downs on the next possession alone, capping the 10-play, 74-yard drive with an 11-yard run by Vince Wilson to make it 16-7.
Fred Andrew returned the kickoff 61 yards to the Mainland 23 and sophomore Chip Bowden hit Zentmeyer in the end zone from the 8, a throw that the senior held on to despite a vicious, chest-high hit.
Mainland marched 69 yards over the next eight plays and scoring on an Avery Atkins 29-yard reverse to seal the game.
- MIKE READLING