To preview the 2012 high school football season, The Tampa Tribune is counting down the top 10 teams in Hillsborough County. These preseason rankings were voted on by Tribune writer Bill Ward, high school sports editor Doug Jacobs and correspondents Mike Camunas, Jarrett Guthrie and Scott Purks. Today: No. 2 Armwood.
Armwood High football coach Sean Callahan has a simple philosophy when it comes to figuring out who's the best football team in the county.
"Unless you beat us, we should be No. 1.''
However, looking at all the players Armwood lost from last year's Class 6A state championship team, as well as the backlash effect the Hawks might suffer after being stripped of their state crown and state runners-up title (2010) for using ineligible players, there could be cause for concern to some.
Callahan has offensive and defensive lines in need of restocking and several other key positions that took a big hit to graduation. He knows a lot of teams will be ''licking their chops'' for the chance to exact revenge against him and his team this fall — and that's just the sort of thing that tends to motivate folks at Armwood.
''We know it's a big year for us,'' Callahan said. ''It's going to take a lot of work by our players and we're going to have to rethink how we do a lot of things as coaches. But hard work is one thing we've never been afraid of in Seffner.''
The good news for the Hawks is that several standout seniors return. Among them are wide receiver Alvin Bailey, quarterback Darryl Richardson, safeties Leon McQuay III and Kyle Gibson, tight end Kyron Miles, linemen Beau Michel and Freddie Martin, kicker Nick Feely and linebackers Warren Williams, Antonio McCullough and Marcus Jacobs.
The elusive Bailey, who produced nearly 2,000 yards of offense last season playing everything from quarterback to running back to receiver, and the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Richardson will be the keys on offense. If new running backs Ronnie Cohen, K.K. Holloway and Jabari Hayes can produce and the Hawks find the right replacements on the offensive line (the recent eligibility approval of 6-6, 270-pound Aaron Evans is a good start), scoring points shouldn't be a problem.
Defensively, Armwood's physical style of play and schemes under coordinator Matt Thompson are a proven commodity. The Hawks' biggest need is finding the type of players to replace the vocal leaders who graduated, particularly linebacker Eric Striker, now at Oklahoma.
KICKOFF CLASSIC: Friday at Gibbs
SEASON OPENER: Sept. 1 vs. Brandon
PREVIOUS TOP 10 TEAMS: 10. Durant; 9. Sickles; T7. Tampa Bay Tech; T7 Jefferson; 6. Gaither; T4. Hillsborough; T4. Robinson; 3. Jesuit.