By Times staff writers
Published September 18, 2005
On Friday night Armwood and Jefferson, which were tied last week for No. 3 in Class 4A, met in a much anticipated game. Armwood won 28-9, but not before a controversial ejection of a Jefferson assistant and some injuries to key players. On Saturday, coaches Sean Callahan of Armwood and Mike Simmonds of Jefferson spoke in a conference call with Times Tampa sports editor Scott Purks and Times correspondent Jim Reese.
Coach Simmonds, what happened with your offensive coordinator, Mike Fenton, when he was removed from the game?
MS: Early in the game, a tackle took place close to our sideline after we had returned an interception. Coach Fenton said something to the head official at that time about his (Fenton's) concern for our players' safety and a 15-yard penalty was assessed against us. I was told at that time that I had to keep him in check and all our coaches know it's my responsibility and mine alone to communicate with the officials. Then what happened a bit later was (Dragons quarterback Stephen Garcia) scrambled and was hit over by our sideline and I feel was hit most certainly out of bounds. Coach Fenton said, "late hit" as did I. The referee then hit Coach Fenton again with another penalty. There was no profanity, but coach Fenton was ejected for having two unsportsmanlike penalties.
Where did coach Fenton go after his ejection? Some people say they saw him up in a parking garage across the street watching the game. (Florida High School Athletic Association rules state disqualified coaches must not be visible by student-athletes, officials, spectators or other coaches. They can have no contact with or give instruction to athletes or coaches during the game.)
MS: Well, I haven't spoken to (Fenton) since, and I'm sure the poor guy is probably upset. It's kind of like, you know, "Where's Waldo?" There were a lot of people at the stadium and then he was asked to leave the game and we even stopped the game because I guess he was up in the stands or the press box or something. Then he left and I haven't seen him since.
Sean, some people said you guys saw Fenton in the parking garage.
SC: Where coach Fenton was after the ejection wasn't a concern of ours. (Fenton) is a good friend of mine and I share with him the passion that goes into an Armwood-Jefferson game. That was an unfortunate thing to have happened but we are not going to be watching where the ejected person is going.
What one play was the turning point in the game?
SC: I don't know, really, if there was one single play that turned the game around. There were so many penalties (15 for 160 yards combined for the teams); it was just tough for us to settle in and create a tempo. We're a no-huddle team and we like to bring pressure with that type of offense but seeing a flag or a whistle on every other play, we were just not playing Armwood football.
MS: I would have to say what threw us off stride was coach Fenton being ejected. He's a great offensive coordinator. I had to take over the play calling and you can call me Groundhog Simmonds because I love running the football. And anyone who knows me and knows Coach Fenton could tell after he was ejected, I was calling the plays. But give credit to Armwood. In the first half, they capitalized on their drives (Hawks led 21-0 in the second quarter).
How is Garcia (among the top area passers) doing after his head injury in the third quarter, which resulted in a trip to the hospital?
MS: He's fine. He was in the weight room this morning working out. He was knocked for a loop last night but he's okay. Cornelius Gray, one of our linebackers, also got hurt throwing a block, but he'll be back next week. After the hit, (Gray) was asking us on the bench where we were going to the movies, and of course we weren't going to any movies at that point. But he's also fine as it turns out.
Sean, your kicker, Darren deRochemont, has been kicking well of late since the beginning of the season. (deRochemont missed an extra point that would have sent that game into overtime. Hillsborough went on to win 21-20, snuffing the Hawks' 29-game win streak).
SC: Well, now (deRochemont) is not hanging around practice for just a half hour but rather staying for the full three hours and he's changed because of that. We have enough confidence in him that once we pass the midfield mark, we'll take a shot at a field goal because he can hit from that far. Worse thing happens, he misses but reaches the end zone and they start from their own 20 (deRochemont missed a 59-yard attempt in the Jefferson game).
Coach Simmonds, you have Hillsborough (4-0, No. 2 in Class 4A) next week. What do you have to do?
MS: We'll be missing coach Fenton while he serves out his one-game suspension (for getting ejected). So we just have to get back to fundamentals. That's what wins games. We saw the films (of Armwood) and we did some things well. There wasn't the total domination (by Armwood Friday night) as there was in last year's game (which Armwood won 54-7). We missed some opportunities but there were some bright spots, too. We've been in some adverse situations in the past, too. Last year, we started off 2-2 and had over 100 points scored on us in those two losses and we made it to the state championship game.