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A once-struggling line pushes people around as Hawks win.
By BRYAN BURNS
Published November 11, 2006
TAMPA - Eleven weeks ago in the season opener for both schools, Armwood - starting five new offensive linemen - struggled to find any consistency on offense against Hillsborough yet managed a victory despite gaining just 104 yards of total offense.
In Friday's rematch between the schools, a Class 4A regional quarterfinal playoff game, Armwood showed just how far that offensive line has come.
The Hawks ran the ball 57 times for 242 yards and outgained Hillsborough 289-133 in a dominant 32-7 victory, which left Armwood coach Sean Callahan and the rest of the Hawks grinning from ear-to-ear.
"We didn't change anything (from the season opener); we're just better at blocking," Callahan said. "We weren't very good that first week."
Armwood (10-1) set the physical tone early, holding Hillsborough (6-5) to a three-and-out on the game's opening drive and marching 61 yards in eight plays. Quarterback Justin Hickman finished the drive on a 3-yard keeper for a 7-0 lead.
"We had a level of focus this week we've never had since I've been here," Hickman said. "It was a big bounce-back from the first game against Hillsborough."
Justin Williams intercepted Eric Fennell's pass on the next drive and returned it 16 yards for a 14-0 Armwood lead. The Terriers got back in the game on Kashief Steen's 6-yard touchdown run and were looking to tie the score with the ball on the Armwood 4 late in the first quarter. But Fennell fumbled, Armwood recovered and rolled from there.
Marquise Branton had a 31-yard touchdown run and Eric Smith ran in from 11 yards out to give Armwood a 26-7 halftime lead. The Hawks opened the second half by chewing up 8:52 in 16 plays, culminating in Darren deRochemont's 27-yard field goal.
"We always say the two most important possessions are the first of the game and the first of the second half," Hillsborough coach Earl Garcia said. "They won both of them. They deserved to win."