Loss gives Hawks a sense of urgency

Published October 1, 2006

TAMPA - If anyone has wrested local supremacy from top-ranked Armwood, it is the Hawks themselves.

Such was the message Armwood players and coaches implied the morning after their 26-25 overtime loss Friday at Winter Haven that knocked them from the ranks of the undefeated and, more than likely, the top spot in the Class 4A poll.

"It's not like, 'Oh my gosh, what are we gonna do?' We're fine with all that," said Hawks coach Sean Callahan, who watched his club (4-1) suffer only its second on-field loss in its last 36 regular season games.

"Actually, it was a very good game defensively and offensively, as far as our blocking and execution. But you turn over the ball like we did, and that takes away everything."

Armwood lost three fumbles, had an interception and watched a bad snap foil a point-after try in overtime Friday. The Blue Devils (4-1) scored on the ensuing overtime possession and converted the PAT to clinch the victory.

"Not many things were going right, really," senior fullback Marquise Branton said. "We didn't play all that good. We've got to get better."

If the Hawks derived anything at all positive from the loss, it was a sense of urgency. Another defeat in its remaining District 12 games - against Auburndale (1-5) and Lake Region (3-2) - and Armwood risks missing the playoffs.

"Our main goal is still to make it to the state championship," Branton said. "That Winter Haven game isn't going to bring us down."

Nonetheless, if the Hawks win out in district play, they likely will begin the postseason on the road, which is nothing new.

Armwood began the 2004 playoffs on the road after being forced to forfeit a regular-season win against Middleton for using an ineligible player. As a result, the Hawks played only two of their five postseason games at Lyle Flagg Field that year.

The last one was the state title game in Gainesville, where they crushed Lake Gibson. The probable opponent in this year's playoff opener is Hillsborough, which the Hawks defeated 19-9 in the season opener.

"We like playing on the road, we really do," Callahan said. "We're absolutely fine playing Hillsborough."