ORLANDO — Around 4 p.m. Saturday at the Citrus Bowl, Armwood coach Sean Callahan was handed the Class 6A state runner-up football trophy and posed for a picture with the Hawks’ team captains.
Callahan held the trophy like it was a stinky mackerel. The players didn’t want any part of it, like it was toxic.
It was a downright sad picture was what it was, because the trophy came a few minutes after Miami Central beat the Hawks 52-7.
“It hurts,” Armwood linebacker Jordan Griffin said. “It hurts real bad.”
Armwood, you see, is not happy “just being there.”
That’s because the Hawks have “been there” plenty of times, playing in six state title games since 2003, winning in 2003 and 2004. They are not just a team, they are a perennial state championship threat, a group built on rolling over adversity.
That’s why when Miami Central went up 45-7 in the fourth quarter, Griffin pulled a bunch of the juniors together on the sideline and offered a few words to think about.
He said: “This hurts, but we can’t let this define who we are.” He made a promise: “I’m going to do everything I can to get back here for our senior season. We will get back here.”
A few minutes after the Hawks walked off the field, and you took a moment to think about it, Griffin’s promise seemed more than viable.
It seemed likely.
The fact is, these Hawks who finished the year 14-1 and made it to the Class 6A state championship game are a young bunch who on Saturday started 15 underclassmen and had more than 20 underclassmen receive plenty of playing time — and they did it against a team that had 14 Division I recruits and 14 starting seniors.
So what does Armwood lose to graduation?
Quarterback Noah Johnson? No.
Defensive end Byron Cowart (rated the No. 1 defensive end in the country by rivals.com)? No.
Griffin, the Hawks’ leading tacker? No.
Division I kicker Sterling Hofrichter? No.
Four of five offensive linemen? No.
Fire and determination?
“No sir,” Cowart said.