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October 28, 2011Matt Jones stood in the north end zone of Lyle Flagg Stadium and smiled.
It was a genuine smile, from ear to ear as Jones listened to Seffner (Fla.) Armwood coach Sean Callahan compliment his team after a hard-fought 21-0 win over Tampa (Fla.) Plant.
"I'm just happy for my team," the Florida commit said. "I was glad to score, but more glad that it helped our team start celebrating."
Jones' 30-yard run through the interior of the worn-out Plant defense came with 4:18 left and capped an 18-point second half for the Hawks.
It was like a heavyweight fight. Each puncher waiting for the other to show a glaring weakness - then attack.
Leading 3-0 at the half thanks to a Nick Feely 48-yard field goal in the second quarter, Armwood's Garion Brown took the second half kickoff at the one, split the seam and never looked back.
Brown's 99-yard kickoff return propelled Armwood to a 9-0 lead and the Hawks went on to a 21-0 win over Plant.
With the win, Armwood - ranked No. 4 nationally in the RivalsHigh 100 - moves to 9-0 on the season, but Callahan was cautious when talking to his team.
"We've got a long way to go before we're a great team," Callahan told his team in the north end zone after the game. "Right now we're a good team that makes too many silly mistakes. Too many silly penalties.
"A very good team came back from Orlando last year very disappointed," Callahan said.
Armwood was 14-0 last year and led Tallahassee Lincoln 14-7 into the fourth quarter, but the Trojans rallied for the 4A title, 17-14.
"We haven't forgotten that feeling," Callahan said. "We want another shot but we've got to stop making those drive-extending or drive-killing mistakes."
Callahan had to be happy with the defensive unit, which dished its fourth shutout in five games and held the high-powered Panther offense out of the end zone.
Twice Plant, also nationally ranked at No. 59 in the RivalsHigh 100, threatened - once getting to the eight yard line before the Hawks forced a fumble and stopped the only serious scoring threat Plant would muster.
Armwood would add two more long touchdown runs to seal the win.
After the Brown kickoff return, Plant tried to counter with a 45-yard kickoff return by Antonio Crawford that gave Plant excellent field position.
Rodney Gilbert then ripped off two runs of 14 and 9 yards to get the Panthers to the Hawk 38, but Armwood stopped the drive with an interception by Keionne Baines of a Plant screen pass. One play later, Wade Edwards took a screen pass from Darryl Richardson and darted 77 yards for a 15-0 Armwood lead.
"I told our kids to just keep doing those plays and they'd be there," Callahan said of his halftime speech to the Hawks.
Jones put the proverbial 'nail in the coffin' with a 30-yard run through the middle of the worn-out Plant defense with 4:18 remaining. It was fitting for the senior running back to score the last score on senior night.
By then the celebration had begun at Lyle Flagg Stadium.
"When you're playing [Armwood], you can't give them freebies," Plant coach Robert Weiner said after the game. "They're just a little bit better than us in every aspect of the game."
"You can't make those kind of mistakes [the turnovers]," Weiner said. "They outcoached us a little bit. Out-played us."
In the past, this game has meant home field in the first round of the playoffs as the two teams were in the same district for six years. Now that Plant has moved to Class 8A, this type of game will only help the Panthers get ready for the largest class in Florida.
"The good thing is that we can physically be in a game like this," Weiner said. "That's probably the most physical team we will face this year. We know that at this level of competition, we're not that far away from where we need to be, and we've got a couple of weeks to get to where we want to be."
Plant QB James Few had little time to pass, and when he did have time, the Armwood secondary was almost always there to break up the pass.
The Panther running game never got on track, with 24 carries for 38 yards, and one costly fumble.
Armwood had 280 yards of total offense and Darryl Richardson finished the game 8-of-14 for 175 yards and a touchdown.