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Callahan: Expect a close one tonight

By SCOTT PURKS
Published December 1, 2006


Armwood has defeated Miami Booker T. Washington in each of the past three Class 4A state semifinals, with the past two Hawks victories pulled out in the final seconds (37-34 last year, 36-35 in 2004). In 2003, Armwood dominated 44-14. On Thursday, Times staff writer Scott Purks sat down with Armwood coach Sean Callahan, who admitted to still feeling some anguish after Plant defeated his Hawks 38-20 last Friday. Here are Callahan's thoughts on tonight's game:

I have talked to (Washington) coach Tim Harris quite a bit over the past few years after the games we've played against each other. This year we talked through the summer and during the season and just before playoffs started. (Harris) says they have lost some great players but at the same time they have seemed to get better as an overall program.

You have to give them a great deal of credit. When you show up four times in the state semifinals, especially after having lost the previous three, that shows a lot of character. I would think those guys would have really loved to have played us to expel some demons. But now they have to play Plant, which beat us, and beat us pretty good.

(Washington) can look at it one of two ways. No. 1, they can think this team is better than Armwood, or two, they can say thank God we're not playing Armwood. But I think the right way to think about it is that Plant is a good team and we need to prepare for this team on this night and nothing else.

The matchup starts with Booker T.'s overall team speed. Booker T. is fast at every position. Even their linemen are fast. But Plant should be able to hold its own against them, especially at the skill positions. Plant's skill players are better than most people think. Collectively they don't have great speed, but overall, as a group, they are very fast.

Coach Harris does a great job with his passing offense, but I think Booker will have to run the ball at times if they want to have a chance. Plant does a better job of mixing the run with the pass. God knows we made Plant's running game look pretty good (Plant had more than 150 rushing yards against Armwood last Friday).

Booker T. does have a good back, but he is a freshman and he's coming in to play in a huge, huge game.

Another thing I believe works in Plant's favor is its field. It's a rough, patchy, sandy field. It looks like cows have been tromping all over it, but they're happy with it. It works for them. I think if the Miami players see that field it could get in the back of their minds a little bit.

Overall, I believe it will be very close, maybe like 24-21 ...unless, that is, like Armwood, someone turns it over six times and has two of those returned for scores.

Plant has a chance to add to the recent Hillsborough County success, to make their own place in history. They have a great quarterback in Robert Marve, who showed a lot to me in the victory over us. But it's more than him as well. They have developed a lot of fine football players around him.

So now is the time. They're playing on their home field in front of a great crowd. If they play well like they have been, I think they can get it done. I'm not going to make a prediction, other than to say, it should be very, very close. I'll definitely be there to see what happens.