ORLANDO – By the time Miami Central High hoisted the Class 6A state championship trophy Saturday afternoon at the Citrus Bowl, Armwood’s football team already had retreated to its locker room.
After all, what was left to see after taking a 52-7 thumping by the third-best team in the nation.
“They’re a different level from us,” Armwood coach Sean Callahan admitted. “That’s what it is.”
Central (13-1), which won its second straight state title and whose only loss is to consensus No. 1 nationally ranked Miami Washington, led 14-0 before Armwood (14-1) collected a first down and at one point held a 157-9 advantage in yards.
The Rockets led 21-7 at halftime and forced a mandatory running clock in the fourth quarter per the 35-point mercy rule after scoring their eighth touchdown.
Armwood’s lone score came in the second quarter when junior quarterback Noah Johnson connected with sophomore Trevor Laurent on an 11-yard pass. Johnson finished 7-for-24 for 75 yards with two interceptions. He was sacked four times and rushed 11 times for minus-12 yards.
Johnson entered the game with more than 2,700 total yards and 32 touchdowns.
“I don’t know what to say,” Johnson said. “They’re a great team. Great defense, great offense. They got the complete package.”
Johnson tweaked his ankle in the first quarter and was visibly injured but remained in the game. Johnson was replaced by freshman Darrian McNeal in the fourth quarter. McNeal finished with a team-best 94 rushing yards.
“It bothered me all game and really threw our offense off,” Johnson said. “I couldn’t be mobile. I had to sit in the pocket.”
Central running back Dalvin Cook, meanwhile, scorched the Hawks’ defense for 226 yards and four touchdowns on 19 carries, while receiver Da’Vante Phillips caught four passes for 92 yards and a touchdown.
“Honestly, the first 14, maybe even 21 points was on us, the defense,” said Armwood senior safety Kyle Gibson, who had two interceptions. “It was blown plays and missed tackles. We would have them, and a lot of their touchdowns were after tackles. So if you want to blame, you can blame it on us. But overall, I felt we played good, fought hard and we didn’t lay down.”
Satuday’s loss marked the most points allowed by Armwood this season.
“Nothing happened that we weren’t expecting,” Callahan said. “We knew we were going to get a big dose of Dalvin Cook and their offensive line. As good as we are against the run, the defensive line made so much space for Dalvin and Dalvin hit it hard.”
Armwood was playing for the program’s third state championship. The Hawks have played in six state title games since 2003 and in 2011, they defeated Central in the 6A championship 40-31. That title game has since been vacated from the Florida High School Athletic Association record books after it was proven both teams used ineligible players who were found to have made invalid transfers into the schools.
“Our kids will learn from this,” Callahan said. “Our coaching staff will get it right, too.”
Said Johnson: “We don’t want to feel the same way next year. We’re going to be back. We’re going to be back next year.”