TAMPA - For the first time in weeks, Jefferson High coach Mike Fenton said his team played inspired football, fighting to the bitter - and yes, it was bitter - end Friday night against Armwood.
The final score was Armwood 26, Jefferson 9, but if not for a few plays here and there - including a 2-yard touchdown run by Hawk Eric Smith with 14 seconds remaining - it was actually a lot closer.
'We were very intense tonight and that's what we've needed,' Fenton said. 'We wanted to get some of that swagger back and I think we took a few steps toward getting there. You have to remember that we were playing one of the best teams in the country and we hung right with them.
'Yes, that last touchdown hurts because from where I was I thought we stopped them. But hey, that doesn't take away from our effort.'
Meantime, Armwood (5-0), was treating it more like business as usual with coach Sean Callahan talking about how his program treats the season's first five games as, "the preseason."
'We look at it as a 15-game season (meaning the Hawks would reach the state final), so as far as I'm concerned we just completed the first third of our season,' Callahan said. 'Tonight we worked on several things and I think we have it figured out. We're going to go with Armwood football, being physical and taking it straight to teams.
'When we did that tonight with Smith (19 carries, 89 yards) and Rashyied Melvin (15 carries, 62 yards) we were very effective.'
Through the first quarter, however, it was Jefferson (1-3) that was getting the better of Armwood, holding the Hawks nine total yards and only two yards rushing on six carries. The second quarter was also pretty even, except for two big plays, the first a 30-yard pass to Smith and the second a 54-yard touchdown run by quarterback Mywan Jackson.
At halftime, after a last-second 32-yard field goal by Philip Londono, the score was only Armwood 9, Jefferson 3.
'But then we came out in the second half and started wearing them down,' Smith said. 'We always do that in the third and fourth quarters, you know, wearing teams down.'
Jefferson still cut the gap to 19-9 early in the fourth quarter when it blocked a punt and Dragon Jamil Crews recoverd the ball in the end zone.
After that however, it was a steady diet of Smith and Melvin, coupled with a relentless Armwood defense (holding Jefferson to minus-five second-half rushing yards). In the end, Jefferson, because of a couple of plays that combined to lose almost 50 yards (a fumbled punt and a sack), totaled only 88 offensive yards.
The thing that might concern other teams the most, however, is that the Hawks were without potential all-state linemen Matt Patchan (shoulder) and Sergio Joyner (knee).
'We when we get back up to full strength I think we could be a very, very good football team,' Callahan said. 'And those guys should be back just in time for our 'regular season.''
Armwood09107-26Jefferson0306-9 A-FG Williams 31
A-Jackson 54 run (kick blocked)
J-FG Londono 32
A-FG Williams 37
A-Smith 10 run (Williams kick)
J-Crews recovered blocked punt in end zone (pass failed)
A-Smith 2 run (Williams kick)
TEAM STATISTICS ArmJeffFirst downs 127Rushing 47-23222-(-9)Passing 3-9-4512-24-97Total yards 27788Interceptions by 10Sacks by 20Fumbles-lost 1-01-0Penalties-yards 3-206-30