PREP FOCUS: Opponents have learned to be afraid of Armwood's talented trio of backs.
By EMILY NIPPS
Published December 10, 2003
[Times photo: Jen Sens]
Armwood's Demetrius McCray has 1,335 yards this season.
SEFFNER - The last time Armwood coach Sean Callahan told a young quarterback what to do, he learned one of his biggest lessons: Don't mess with a player's instincts. "Something bad happened," Callahan said. "I'm not so sure I was wrong in what I told him to do, but a quarterback is trained to read the play and he's going to do that."
Sure enough, with less than a minute left in last season's region semifinal against Lake Gibson, Callahan's instructions were lost on the quarterback. He was asked to do one thing, but he did something else. Confusion reigned, the play failed, the season ended.
Nine months later, Callahan started over with 5-foot-9, 165-pound quarterback Jameel Williams, fresh off the junior varsity. He warily put his faith in the junior's training, hoping Williams' instincts would groove with the rest of Armwood's offense.
Did they ever.
Not only has Williams rushed for 1,367 yards, but running back Demetrius McCray (5-10, 180) has 1,335 yards and 20 touchdowns. And both of them are about 300 yards behind team leader Kalvin Bailey. The 6-foot, 250-pound fullback has rushed for 1,642 yards and has scored 21 touchdowns.
No wonder the Hawks are 14-0 as they head into Thursday's Class 4A state final against Lake Gibson. Bailey, Williams and McCray were the first trio in Hillsborough County to surpass 1,000 yards in the same season, which they accomplished during the 10-game regular season. As near as anyone can tell, Armwood is the third team in Florida to have three such runners, after Fort Myers Bishop Verot in 1983 and Jacksonville Trinity in 1999.
"It feels special," Williams said after reaching the milestone Nov. 8. "I know I'll be in the record books with those guys."
The scary part? The trio isn't even close to being finished. All are juniors and hope the best is to come.
"My goal (after passing 1,000) was 1,500 for the season," Bailey said. "Now I'm past that goal."
Bailey said he had a feeling the Hawks were on to something special early in the season.
"Jameel was making good decisions, and Demetrius was working hard. I thought we might accomplish a lot."
Armwood's defense has been hailed as one of the sharpest and most-improved units of the team, but the offense has been the bane of opponents from the start. "Not only do you have to worry about their speed and ability to execute the option," said Countryside coach John Davis, whose Cougars lost to the Hawks in the region final, "but then you have the linemen in front of them who are so big and strong. They don't have any weaknesses."
The Hawks averaged more than 50 points during the regular season, mostly thanks to Williams' range of choices and his ability to give the ball to the right guy, including himself.
Williams said his union with Bailey and McCray is "half natural, half from coaching." The three kid around with each other, have classes together and even share an "option period" during practice Mondays and Tuesdays.
Sometimes it gets old practicing the same play over and over, McCray said. These guys could run these plays in their sleep.
"Sometimes I don't believe it," Williams said. "That I'm a quarterback and I'm 14-0 at Armwood."
Williams admits he gets jitters, perhaps the worst on the team, before a game.
Callahan has faith.
"He hasn't made many mistakes this season," Callahan said. "And the mistakes he has made have not been made on the read."