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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Armwood knows practically everything there is to know about Miami Washington, its Class 4A semifinal opponent tonight.
And Washington knows the same about Armwood. In fact, so knowledgeable are these teams about each other that if you didn't know better, you'd swear they were crosstown rivals, not programs separated by about 200 miles.
"When you play anybody three years in a row, you become very familiar with them," Armwood coach Sean Callahan said.
This rivalry is one born not from location, but out of admiration and hatred. The previous two seasons, the squads met in this very same round. Armwood won both games then claimed the 4A title the following week.
Neither defeat set well with Washington, which has won 32 of its past 34 dating to 2003 (its only losses to the Hawks). The Tornadoes' 44-14 defeat by Armwood two seasons ago was tough to stomach, but it doesn't compare to last year's heartbreak.
After a back-and-forth game in Seffner, Armwood won 36-35 in stunning fashion. It got a late 80-yard touchdown pass from receiver Mat Brevi, who had caught a lateral, to running back Demetrius McCray, then went ahead on a two-point run by fullback Kalvin Bailey. (Washington players swore he didn't get in.)
Tonight, the stakes are just as high.
Armwood (12-1) is in position to threepeat as champion. Washington (10-0) is out for revenge.
"This is going to be our biggest test so far," Hawks safety Jeremy Carver said.
Containing Tornadoes quarterback Alwan Lee will be a top priority.
"You can't blink against someone like this," Hawks defensive coordinator Matt Thompson said.
Armwood believes it is up to the challenge. The 2004 squad surrendered 168 points, the current group has allowed just 84. The biggest difference has come up front, where the Hawks not only have more experience, but better talent.
"We've got to contain Lee and put pressure on him," Callahan said. "We've got to limit the big plays."
Armwood's offense, which isn't as proficient as last season's unit, also will be pushed. Only three Washington opponents have scored 20 or more points. Halfback Eric Smith leads the Hawks with 1,233 rushing yards. Justin Hickman has thrown for 1,168 yards and 17 scores while adding 440 rushing yards. Neither, however, started against Washington last season.
"Everybody keeps talking about their defense, but I think their offense is still doing a terrific job," Washington coach Tim Harris said.
Will it be another Armwood triumph? Or will Washington finally have its day? For these bitter rivals, the answer comes tonight in South Florida.