SEFFNER - Is it possible for Armwood to improve on last season?
The Hawks rampaged through an undefeated regular season, beating teams by an average of just over 50 points. The offensive line would have made some college lines envious, averaging 290 pounds while clearing holes for three 1,000-yard backs. And Armwood capped its run through the playoffs with a victory against Lake Gibson in the state championship, the first title for a Hillsborough County team in 34 years. So is it conceivable for the Hawks to be better?
According to coach Sean Callaghan, the answer is "yes."
"We're bigger, stronger and faster than last year," Callaghan said. "These kids worked extremely hard in the offseason and it's going to show."
If there was any post-championship hangover, Callaghan hasn't seen it. A mere six weeks after winning state, the Hawks resumed offseason workouts, and instead of finding a team basking in its glory, Callaghan returned to a group as hungry as ever.
"They picked up right where they left off," he said. "They were as eager to start workouts as they are for the first day (of practice) in pads."
Callaghan said that going into last season, the goal was to win districts and go from there. But after last season, the bar has been raised.
"I talked to numerous coaches who've won multiple state championships and the common thread for each was they had high expectations," Callaghan said. "And that's where we need to be now."
THROUGH THE AIR: With Armwood devouring yards on the ground last season, passing the football was almost pointless. But quarterback Jameel Williams has an accurate arm and was efficient when called on. Williams likely will throw five-to-seven times per game with his main targets being Mat Brevi and Kareem Royal.
ON THE GROUND: Callaghan is excited about his backfield and with good reason. Each of the three returners rushed for 1,000 yards, becoming just the third trio in state history to eclipse that mark. Callaghan, in his 24th year of coaching, called them "the best backfield Hillsborough County has ever seen."
Williams is the catalyst of the Hawks' option attack. Williams was MVP of the state championship and is responsible for making the key reads necessary to get the offense going.
"Jameel makes the decisions out there whether to give it to the fullback, keep it or pitch it," Callaghan said. "We don't predetermine where the ball's going, so he's like an extension of the coaching staff out there."
Behind Williams is punishing Kalvin Bailey and Demetrius McCray. The 6-foot-1, 241-pound Bailey, who is being recruited by Miami, USC and LSU, benches 400 pounds and runs a 4.6 in the 40.
"He can either run like a deer or a bull," Callaghan said.
McCray averaged 12 yards a carry during the regular season and scored 25 touchdowns.
DEFENSE The Hawks' high-powered offense gets the headlines, but the defense has been a constant at Armwood. The Hawks have had the No. 1 defense in the county the past three years and return four key components from last year's unit.
Defensive tackle Jake Cross (6-1, 265) anchors the front line while Dougie Thompson leads a slightly depleted linebacking core. James Jolly, the leading tackler last season, broke his foot at the start of fall practice and will miss about six weeks. Speedster R.J. Anderson is one of the top-rated cornerbacks in the state and also handles punt and kickoff returns.
AT A GLANCE:
COACH: Sean Callahan, (15th season, 94-61).
COLORS: Royal blue, white and maroon.
STADIUM: Lyle Flagg Stadium, 12000 U.S. Highway 92, Seffner.