The Hawks must replace not just players who graduated, but players who earned scholarships.
By ERIC VICIAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published August 30, 2001
SEFFNER -- Visit the Armwood locker room, and you'll see one of the biggest reasons why the Hawks have been a playoff team for the past three seasons.
"We're in great shape," said coach Sean Callahan, who is entering his 12th year.
Physically, there's no denying that. As the players complete bench presses, clean-and-jerks and other weight-lifting routines, muscles bulge throughout the two adjoining rooms.
Armwood also is a speedy, well-conditioned bunch, having run drills since January. The result, Callahan said, is a bevy of players who can run the 40 in 4.5 seconds or less.
However, the caveat with this year's team is not knowing exactly what kind of shape it will be in come game time.
After turning in the most successful season in school history, one that saw the Hawks lose to eventual state champion Belle Glades Glades Central in the state semifinals, Armwood is without 18 starters.
The void is even larger when you consider 15 of the players earned scholarships (14 qualified). "We've got to replace a lot," Callahan said. "We're very excited because I love the change and the turnover and the challenge. I think the way they work, the attitude they bring every day, there's going to be success somewhere."
Three-year starter Charles Sallet said he believes it will come in the form of a district title.
"We've got to win the district," Sallet said. "Everybody thinks that just because Jefferson moved into the district, it's theirs. We aren't paying any attention to Jefferson. We're going to beat them."
OFFENSE: The Hawks led the county in passing last season thanks to all-state quarterback Ron Buskey. But the option-minded Hawks actually ran as much as they passed.
They'll do the same this year behind either senior John Dinovo or junior Ryan Watts at quarterback. The duo entered 2001 in a competition for the starting nod, which figures to go to Dinovo, the better passer and leader.
But Callahan called Watts "the fastest football player I've ever had."
The only two starters from last year's offense are on the line. Senior guards John Murray and Luis Dick will clog the middle with center Devon "Big Daddy" Clark (6 feet, 338 pounds).
John Collier is the top wideout in a Hawks passing attack that will use four- and five-receiver sets.
Cornelius Mitchell, who started the past two seasons on the junior varsity team, will handle the running workload.
DEFENSE: The only players who remain from the county's top defense are Sallet and Stephon Gansey. Both will move from the line to linebacker, which is fine with Sallet.
"I love linebacker," he said.
"You get more collisions, and that's what I love."
After playing behind stars like Antwan Allen, speedy cornerback Dalvin Bailey is being recruited. Behind Bailey, Callahan's son, Kirk, will start at safety.
The line will be the biggest concern.
The nose guard slot remained up for grabs, and defensive end Elam Hart might have a duo of teammates at the other bookend. Jarrett Buie, younger brother of Virginia Tech linebacker Chris Buie, and Pat Francis are competing for that slot.
The tackles are set with Fred Hicks and Kevin McClean.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Franklin Derochmont returns for a third year as kicker. Dinovo again will punt, which allows for the possibility of fakes.
COACH: Sean Callahan, 12th season (66-52)
ASSISTANTS: Mike Bradley, T.J. Laflamboy, Paul Solazzo, Bill Stewart, Chris Taylor, Matt Thompson
COLORS: Royal blue, white and maroon
STADIUM: Lyle Flagg Stadium, 12000 U.S. Highway 92, Seffner
CLASS: 4A, District 8
PLAYOFF HISTORY: 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000
LAST APPEARANCE: Beat Sarasota Booker 21-0, beat Haines City 28-21, beat Lake Gibson 17-14, lost to Belle Glade Glades Central 41-15
SEPT. 7, JEFFERSON: This is a district game, and it comes early in the season. It also might be Armwood's biggest test of the regular season. Not only does this pit two of the most powerful teams in the county against each other, it matches up two of the most intense coaches.