LAS VEGAS -- Head coach Sean Callahan of the Armwood (Seffner, Fla.) football team talked earlier in the week about how tough it was going to be to stop the offense of Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.) heading into the two teams' showdown on ESPN2 on Friday night from Fertitta Field. He said the problem was that the Gaels could be stopped on two or three plays and then, bang, here comes a big play.
Callahan could have been talking about his own team. The Hawks continually frustrated Bishop Gorman with big plays. Combined with its usually high-flying defense, Armwood held on for a 20-17 victory.
Leading 20-3 with 4:56 left in the third quarter after Wade Edwards' 3-yard run, the Gaels mounted a comeback. They scored on the first play of the fourth quarter on a 1-yard plunge by Shaquille Powell, then got the ball back and reached the end zone once again on a 2-yard dash by junior quarterback Jarrett Solomon with just 2:53 left on the clock.
On Armwood's ensuing possession, the Hawks could not convert on a third down pass. That gave the Gaels the chance to perhaps mount a game-winning scoring drive.
Solomon connected on a fourth-down pass to Jamir Tillman for 19 yards with 22 seconds left that brought the ball down to the Armwood 23-yard line. From there, however, Bishop Gorman could get no closer. After three incomplete passes and with just four seconds left, junior kicker Kline Fielden then trotted onto the field to attempt a game-tying 40-yard field goal. The kick missed low and wide to the left and Armwood had another big state vs. state win for Florida.
What it means for next week's first POWERADE FAB 50 for the regular season: Since Bishop Gorman was coming in after a 42-22 win over Chaparral (Scottsdale, Ariz.), the No. 1 ranked team in Arizona, Armwood's win and a win on the road no less firmly established the Hawks as a top 10 team nationally. They will move up at least one spot from No. 9 next week and perhaps more. That depends partly on whether defending FAB 50 champion St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) wins in its game on Saturday on ESPN vs. Prattville (Prattville, Ala.). The scary aspect of the win for the rest of Florida is that the Hawks won without Florida-bound running back Matt Jones (who may be back within three weeks) and with a junior quarterback, Darryl Richardson, who was making his first start at Armwood. This is a team that is only going to get much better.
For the Gaels, they still have a major out-of-state contest coming up on Sept. 29 vs. FAB 50 ranked Servite (Anahem, Calif.). Assuming that they'll get through their next few games and Servite does not lose in any of its early games, Bishop Gorman could get a big win over Servite and actually could still end up as one of the nation's top teams. For next week, look for the Gaels to remain in the top 20. If they hadn't come back and ended up losing 30-3 or something similar, their slide probably would have been much greater.
Rising Star of the Night: With Jones on the sidelines, the player that came up the biggest for Armwood was junior wide receiver Alvin Bailey. He gave the Hawks a huge lift in the first half when he took a simple sideline pass from Richardson and turned it into a 67-yard touchdown. He later made a circus catch with two defenders draped on him to set up another score. "Yes, I knew we needed it," said Bailey, who ended with five catches for 114 yards and also ran the ball twice. "I got a great block from (Greg) Newton on that play and that was all it took. He's the one who should have gotten credit for it." Bailey and the rest of the team were given a warning during the team huddle after the game by Jones, who is still clearly the team's leader despite his injury. He reminded them of a big win they had last year, but it was not followed up by winning a state championship. "We just beat a real big team out here," Bailey said. "But everybody has to stay humble."
More Stat Stars: Actually, with both defenses playing well, stat stars were hard to come by. For Armwood, Edwards scored twice and had 17 carries for 81 yards. Richardson completed just six of 13 passes for 119 yards, but he ran for 37 yards on four carries and perhaps most importantly in his first start for the Hawks had no turnovers. Getting him to turn it over clearly was part of the game plan for Bishop Gorman and that just didn't happen. For the Gaels, Solomon completed 15 of 23 passes for 115 yards and added 13 rushes for 49 yards and one touchdown. Powell had one score, but was held to 80 yards on 17 carries, a far cry from the 297 he had against Chaparral.
Armwood coach Sean Callahan: "These two teams were a lot alike. They like to mix it up a little but mostly they like to run. That's how we are. This was a real good test and to come here (without Jones) and to beat them here (it was Bishop Gorman's first home loss on its new campus in five years) is a great accomplishment. They are good enough to play with any of the top teams in Florida. They are clearly a national level team."
Bishop Gorman coach Tony Sanchez: "We did good early in the game, but we couldn't get enough points. Then things got stale for awhile and they broke off some big plays. They have the best defensive front that we've ever gone against. At the end of the day, there we were with a chance to tie or win at the end. No, we didn't get the turnovers we were hoping for. Their quarterback did a good job with his feet. He extended a lot of plays."
Up Next: Armwood (1-0) travels to play Brandon (Brandon, Fla.) next Friday night. Bishop Gorman (1-1) hosts Desert Oasis (Las Vegas, Nev.) next Friday night.