History points to a blowout

But Jefferson and Armwood are pretty evenly matched this year, which could mean a closer contest.

Published September 16, 2005

TAMPA - This is rivalry. No doubt about that.

"Every time we play Armwood we want to beat them very, very badly, and I know for a fact they want to beat us just as much," Jefferson coach Mike Simmonds said.

At the same time, though, it's a weird rivalry when you consider the games haven't been close.

Last season Armwood beat Jefferson 54-7 and the two years before that Armwood beat Jefferson 35-14 and 24-0. In 2001, however, Jefferson topped Armwood 63-0, and in 1998 the Dragons beat the Hawks 40-0.

"But I really don't think that's going to be the case this time around," said Simmonds, whose team is tied with Armwood at No. 3 in the Class 4A rankings. "I'll bet this one is going to be close. These teams look to be pretty evenly matched."

The biggest clash would seem to be Jefferson's offense (ranked No. 2 in Hillsborough County with an average of 370 yards a game) against Armwood's No. 1-ranked defense (allowing just 131 yards a game).

"Armwood's defense is so good that the teams they've played have had to fight just to get back to the line of scrimmage, let alone gain yards after that," Simmonds said. "Those guys are in the backfield before you know it. It will be quite a test for us."

A lot could hinge on how well Jefferson quarterback Stephen Garcia (38-of-66 for 524 yards, six touchdowns) reacts to the pressure.

Jefferson's defense, meantime, has given up 221 yards a game. But aside from the opener against Middleton, the Dragons (3-0) haven't been tested too much by a decent offense, which Armwood (2-1) appears to have while racking up an average of 269 yards a game.

Simmonds, for one, believes the Hawks can at times be as explosive as last year's team because quarterback Justin Hickman has proven he can throw the ball pretty well (19-of-31 for 443 yards, four touchdowns). Tonight? Who knows.

Games were supposed to be close in the past but they turned out to be far, far from it.

Last year, for instance, Armwood won 54-7.

"They were good and we were good," Armwood coach Sean Callahan said. "We were just on that night. The ball bounced our way."

Looks like he had a point.

By season's end Armwood was a Class 4A champion and Jefferson was the Class 3A runnerup.