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Making an impact

Armwood's offensive line is often overlooked as too short and too slow. The Hawks' opponents would say otherwise.

By FRANK PASTOR

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 6, 2000


SEFFNER -- Armwood offensive line coach Chris Taylor replays the tape to erase any lingering doubt.

Armwood faces fourth and inches in the second quarter of Friday's 17-14 victory over Lake Gibson. Fullback Carl Robinson is offset to the left in the Hawks' backfield, making it obvious Armwood plans to run the ball to that side.

Lake Gibson defensive tackle Wayne Dickens, one of the most highly recruited players in Florida, is lined up over guard Russell Collymore, who is 3 inches shorter.

By all accounts, this should be a mismatch.

It is.

At the snap of the ball, Collymore drives Dickens out of the hole and onto his back. Robinson moves through the opening for a 4-yard gain.

Taylor stops the tape.

"That kid's got an offer to Penn State," he says, pointing to Dickens. "That kid (Collymore) is too short."

Like its starting left guard, Armwood's offensive line is, at turns, too small, too slow and too overlooked on a team that boasts eight potential Division I-A recruits (receivers Chris Murray, Joe Stephens and Leonard Anderson, quarterback Ron Buskey, running back Carl Jones, linebackers Josh Chilsom and Keith Watts and defensive back Antwan Allen).

It also is in a class of its own.

"This offensive line has materialized to be the best offensive line we've had here as a whole," Taylor said.

Though the skill position players get the attention, everything starts with Collymore (5-9, 298), center Jason Brown (5-11, 260), left tackle Rodney Everett (6-3, 273), right guard John Murray (5-11, 280) and right tackle Luis Dick (5-11, 245).

The unit has helped a team that never advanced beyond the second round of the state playoffs to the Class 3A semifinals. Armwood (10-2) will play Belle Glade Glades Central (13-0) at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Glades Central High. "The offensive line doesn't get a lot of credit," Hawks coach Sean Callahan said, "so they have become unified out of knowing that the other kids are successful and that it all started with them."

The line has cleared the way for Jones to rush for 1,380 yards and Robinson to gain 618. It also has created time for Buskey to throw for 2,596 yards and for four receivers (Murray, Anderson, Stephens and Jones) to catch 30 or more passes.

Brown is not bothered by the lack of attention.

"That's just the law of the offensive line," he said. "We kind of take our acclaim from them."

Many of Armwood's linemen were overweight or lacked athleticism when they came into the program, Callahan said. But by committing themselves to off-season workouts and allowing Taylor to make the most of their heart and attitude, they came together to form one of the team's strongest units.

Brown now runs the 40-yard dash in 4.78 seconds. Four of the five bench press more than 300 pounds, with Collymore topping out at 380.

Plays such as Collymore's block of Dickens were so commonplace in post-season victories over Sarasota Booker, Haines City and Lake Gibson that teams resorted to desperate measures to try to slow Armwood's running game.

"Our guys came off the ball so hard that teams didn't even try," Taylor said. "They just dove down at our feet."

Armwood rewards its blockers by feeding them.

Taylor takes them out for breakfast at Highway 92 Diner the morning before each game. On Mondays, the players get together and eat pizza while breaking down film from the previous week's game.

Of the seniors, Everett and Brown are the most likely to play in college next season, Callahan said.

Everett has received interest from Division I-AA Fordham and Bethune-Cookman. Brown, who scored 1,380 on the SAT, has heard from Fordham.

Collymore is considered too short by many coaches.

The three might benefit most from the recruiting fair in February. Once the Feb. 7 signing date has passed, high school and college coaches will gather in the cafeteria for two days to discuss the remaining players and view videotape.

Lake Gibson's Dickens will have signed by then. But he still could appear on videotape. On his back.

Armwood's aims

A list of offensive objectives is posted on the bulletin board outside coach Sean Callahan's office. The Hawks accomplished at least nine of the 12 objectives in seven of their first 11 games:

1. Win.

2. Outscore opponent in the fourth quarter.

3. Make 10 first downs.

4. No turnovers on our side of the field.

5. Score every time inside the 20.

6. 300 yards of total offense.

7. Sustain one drive of 60 yards or more.

8. Complete 55 percent of all passes.

9. No more than 20 yards in penalties.

10. No sacks of the quarterback.

11. 100 percent on situations less than two yards.

12. Two big plays of more than 25 yards.

This week

WHO: Armwood (11-2) at Belle Glade Glades Central (13-0)

WHAT: Class 3A State Semifinals

WHEN: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

WHERE: Glade Central High School

TICKETS: $5

DIRECTIONS: From Tampa take Interstate 75 south to State Road 80/Palm Beach Boulevard (Exit 25) and head east. Stay on State Road 80 for about 30 miles before making a slight right onto U.S 27 south. Follow U.S. 27 for about 25 miles. Turn left onto State Road 80 east, go to State Road 715 and make another left. The school will be on the right-hand side at 1001 SW Avenue M.

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