SEFFNER — High octane. Intense. Mind blowing.
The highly anticipated rematch between Armwood and Jefferson in the Class 6A region semifinals Friday was all of the above.
And after more than 700 yards of offense were earned in a game with too many heroes and highlight plays to count, the difference between advancing to the next round and a season coming to an end Friday came down to only four points.
Final: Armwood 52-48.
The Hawks (12-0) advance to host Springstead in the Class 6A—Region 2 final next Friday.
Armwood junior quarterback Noah Johnson led the pack, finishing with 192 rushing yards and two TDs along with 208 passing yards with a TD. His opponent, Jefferson senior Deiondre Porter, threw for 377 yards, 180 of which went to James Wilson, with four touchdowns, and he rushed for another.
In one of the highest-scoring games of the season in Hillsborough County, the effort of both quarterbacks left veteran Armwood coach Sean Callahan in awe.
“(Johnson) and Deiondre are both difference-makers,” Callahan said. “They both made mistakes but they both made big plays. We had (Porter) running, screaming for his life and he’d still make a throw. It was just awesome. ...
“It was a good football game, that’s what it was.”
No other player had more respect for Porter than Armwood’s menacing defensive end Byron Cowart, who returned two of Porter’s fumble for TDs and collected two sacks.
“I told him throughout the game he’s a heck of a player,” Cowart said. “I knew I would make my plays and he would make his plays. I touched him more than I did last time and I’m happy with this game. I had two sacks and he felt (my presence). He told me during the game I’m a heck of a player and I told him he’s a heck of a player.”
Jefferson led 28-24 at halftime, but Armwood outscored the Dragons 21-7 in the third to take a 45-35 lead. With just over 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter, however, Ventell Bryant’s one-handed diving catch in the end zone cut Armwood’s lead to 45-42.
Minutes later, facing fourth-and-2, Armwood’s Caylan Holloway rushed to the outside to pick up the first down, then broke free for an 11-yard touchdown giving Armwood a 52-42 lead.
On the following possession, Armwood’s Aaron Covington intercepted Porter’s pass at the 23. The Hawks could not convert a 30-yard field goal try, and with no timeouts, Porter led the Dragons for a final score as time expired, rushing up the middle for a 1-yard score.
One by one, Armwood players walked over to shake Porter’s hand.
“It hurts,” Jefferson coach Jeremy Earle said. “I told them, ‘I don’t have the words for you. Nothing can make you feel any better because this hurts bad.’
“These guys work so hard and they’ve been through so much to allow a team to get in the way of their goals and their dreams.”
Jefferson 7 21 7 13 — 48
Armwood 7 17 21 7 — 52
A — Holloway 4 run (Hofrichter kick)
J — Ingram 60 pass from Porter (Pena kick)
A — FG Hofrichter 21
A — Cowart 30 fumble return (Hofrichter kick)
J — Pownell 15 pass from Porter (Pena kick)
J — Ingram 13 pass from Porter (Pena kick)
J — Gomez 46 interception return (Pena kick)
A — Johnson 1 run (Hofrichter kick)
A — Bailey 86 pass from Johnson (Hofrichter kick)
A — Cowart 23 fumble return (Hofrichter kick)
A — Johnson 6 run (Hofrichter kick)
J — Ingram 4 pass from Porter (Pena kick)
J — Bryant 10 pass from Porter (Pena kick)
A — Holloway 11 run (Hofrichter kick)
J — Porter 1 run (no conversion attempted)