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Hot on the trail of greatness
Armwood's three-back attack conjures memories of the '04 team and its impressive trio.
By JOE SMITH, Times Staff Writer
Published December 6, 2007
SEFFNER - Former Armwood star fullback Kalvin Bailey brought home the Guy Toph Award.
Hawks junior Matt Eastman drives home - and sometime sleeps - in a 1977 pea green Volkswagen bus.
Bailey, who had 3,000 career yards, was rated the nation's top fullback in 2004.
Eastman, a former quarterback, trimmed his hair and turned into a blue-collar, first-time back.
Bailey and Eastman, as similar as the Beatles and the Beach Boys, hold one common thread; they're part of an undefeated Hawks team vying for a state championship.
Penn State may be called "Linebacker U," but Armwood could easily be labeled "Backfield High." Its three backs are always the backbone of the program's option running attack.
But as Eastman, senior tailback Eric Smith and junior quarterback Mywan Jackson lead the Hawks (13-0) into Friday's Class 4A state semifinal at Miami Booker T. Washington, they're trying to forge their own identity from Armwood's last state-title winning trio.
In 2004, Bailey, Jameel Williams and Demetrius McCray wrapped up back-to-back seasons with consecutive championships.
Eastman, Smith and Jackson - each of whom has missed games this season - are just scratching the surface in their first, and only, year together.
"I wouldn't say we're that good yet," Jackson said with a grin. "We're doing good. I can't say Matt is Kalvin, but he runs real hard. Eric and Demetrius were two different styles, Demetrius a fast back, Eric a power one. Me and Jameel? We're about the same."
Hawks coach Sean Callahan says Jackson is faster than Williams, who went 27-0 as a starter. Jackson, a first-year starter, has blazing speed (4.41) but can toss it 60 yards on the run.
His primary weapon is Smith, a 6-foot, 225-pound bruising back with breakaway speed. Smith (1,192, 15 TDs), who has narrowed his college choices to Auburn and Clemson, wears down defenses more than McCray, who whipped past them.
But with the Hawks offense based on the fullback, the wild card could be Armwood's wild man, Eastman. The 6-foot-2, 216-pound junior had finger surgery in the preseason, and has suffered nagging ankle and shoulder injuries. What helps keep his sanity is his bus, his home away from home.
There's zebra shag carpeting, a sofa, refrigerator and portable DVD player. Eastman, who has slept atop the "hoopty" on trips to Cocoa Beach, hasn't convinced his backfield buddies to buy into the bus.
"It's like a Scooby and Shaggy van," Smith said, laughing. "We've been in there, but never slept there."
A state title may change Smith's tune.
Jameel Williams, QB: Dual-threat quarterback was 27-0 as Hawks starter, including two state titles, was 4A final MVP in 2004 with 142 passing and 139 rushing vs. Lake Gibson; now at Northern Iowa.
Demetrius McCray, RB: Speedy back rushed for 1,800 yards in 2004 and 2,978 his final two seasons, including 144 and four TDs in state semi against Booker T. Washington; now at Indiana.
Kalvin Bailey, FB: The 6-foot-1, 240-pound bruiser was rated the nation's top fullback after winning the Guy Toph Award in 2004, rushing for 24 TDs and 1,400 yards (3,000 career); now at College of the Siskiyous, a junior college in California.
Mywan Jackson, QB: Dual-threat quarterback in his first year starting after spending last year as receiver; has racked up 900 passing yards and 950 rushing.
Matt Eastman, FB: The 6-foot-2, 216-pound back bulked up - and chopped his mop of hair - to switch from quarterback to fullback in the offseason.
Eric Smith, RB: Bruising back has rushed for nearly 1,200 yards and 15 TDs; injured during last year's postseason run, Smith is capable of carrying the team.