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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.
Miami Washington returns 14 starters and 18 seniors from last year's team that gave Armwood a huge scare, something no other team has done in three years.
That alone might make Washington the favorite tonight. But ...
There's the fact Washington lost state semifinals 44-14 to Armwood in 2003 and 36-35 last season.
The cruelest part might be that Armwood's final touchdown in 2004 came on a trick play in which a wobbling shot-put pass from receiver Mat Brevi fell into the hands of Demetrius McCray, who raced 80 yards for the score. Seconds later, 250-pound fullback Kalvin Bailey bulled in for the winning two-point conversion.
"What did we think on the bus ride back (to Miami)?" Washington coach Tim Harris said Wednesday. "Well, we thought about what we need to do to get past the state semifinal and win the state championship. We thought about how the mistakes against Armwood (15 penalties for 143 yards and four turnovers) hurt us.
"We talked about how we need to play 48 minutes in every game."
So far, so good. After 10 games, three canceled due to hurricane threats or damage, Washington is 10-0 against a tough Miami schedule. Several games have been close, and on a few occasions, including last week's 24-20 victory over Miami Edison, the Tornadoes have had to rally.
Harris attributed some of that toughness to a matured Alwan Lee, a quarterback who has committed to USF.
"From that last game against Armwood, Alwan has gotten better and better," Harris said. "I think he's peaking at the right time, which is right now."
When Lee isn't passing (94-of-163, 1,303 yards, 17 touchdowns), he's rushing (86 carries, 437 yards, 12 touchdowns). And when he isn't doing either, "He's leading," Harris said. Lee's targets are Lester Hundley (12 receptions, 234 yards) and Rudell Lewin (17 for 228).
Defensively, Washington lost several key players to graduation but still has been stingy, giving up just less than 14 points a game.
"We've had to adjust a little, but we still feel pretty good about where we're at," Harris said. "I thought we were prepared the last two times we played Armwood. This time, I think we're definitely ready."