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November 18, 2012

Five coaches talk to FlaVarsity

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Each Sunday we'll catch up with five coaches from the week before to discuss the good, the bad and the ugly that was football Friday.

This week we catch up with Lincoln coach Yusif Shakir, Armwood head man Sean Callahan, Madison County coach Mike Coe, Taylor County first-year coach Ryan Smith and Naples coach Bill Kramer

Trench warfare

Armwood's coaching staff showed up Friday in Largo with military battle fatigues on. It was a tribute to assistant coach Matt Thompson, a former Marine.

Armwood has struggled offensively at times, and once again had a hard time converting on scoring chances.

"We've got to figure out some things on offense," said Callahan. "We are still letting too many scoring chances go by."

Armwood won 10-6 and will face Hillsborough in a rematch. The Terriers won 3-0 the last time, by far the lowest offensive output for Armwood in quite some time.

"We play good defense, but we're still making mental mistakes on offense," said Callahan. "We cannot afford to leave points on the field against anyone."

While some would argue that Armwood's post-season coaching attire, Callahan was quick to point out that Monday was Veteran's Day.

"Matt (Thompson) served this country for 19 years in the Marines, and wears Marine fatigues every game," Callahan said. "We all wanted to do it to honor him and all of the military service members."

Appropriately enough, Thompson is the mastermind behind the Hawks defense, a staple at Armwood.

Man that guy is a beast

"The best I've ever seen," said Ryan Smith after watching Derrick Henry run for 482 yards against his Taylor County Bulldogs.

Smith stood on the field at Yulee and just looked over at Henry, who towers over most of the players, and coaches.

"I don't think we had a single time where just one kid brought him down," said Smith. "I mean, we got some good kids and some fast kids, and even some big kids, but we don't have anything like that."

Smith was hard-pressed to compare Henry to anyone else.

"I don't think you can," Smith said. "He's in a league of his own. I mean you see him on film, then you see him in person and you're just in awe."

Still, with taking over Taylor County very late in the game (Smith took the job after spring drills) and putting in a new offense, Smith was pleased with the season.

"We have a young team and we're going to be ok next year," Smith said. "We played a tough schedule and that got us ready for the games we had to win. "

Still unbeaten and getting better each week

That describes the Naples Golden Eagles to a 't'.

"Tremendous accountability, tremendous work ethic," said head coach Bill Kramer. "These kids know what it takes to get it done and that's been the chemistry of this group since the season ended last year."

After the season-ending loss to Mainland last year, Kramer said his returning players made a commitment to be back.

"We return ten guys that started on defense last year," said Kramer. "After the regional final at Mainland, they realized that we can do better and that's been their goal."

" The question was, could we get the offensive line up to speed. We had some skill players coming back and knew we would be ok."

Running back Manny Morgan is the offensive skill leader and has been the impact player many thought he would be. But like the Naples Golden Eagles, Morgan's flying under the radar.

"He (Morgan) is a great player in his own right, but why he's not being recruited by the division I schools is beyond me," said Kramer. "I haven't had 10 percent of the traffic that we've had in other years. Our guys aren't concerned with that - they're focused with being the best they can be."

Kramer gives the credit for this year's explosive offense to assistant coach Paul Horne - offensive coordinator and o-line coach.

"I know we haven't had the toughest schedule in the state, but still, we've shattered scoring records - which says a lot about our offensive line play."

"I knew when we beat Immokalee this team was special," Kramer said. "We played really well and we played fast. I thought 'well if we get a little better each week we might have a chance,' and the fact is - we have."

No first round stumble this year

Lincoln coach Yusuf Shakir looked at the results Friday night and saw First Coast had lost to Buchholz 10-7.

He's been there before.

Last year, the Lincoln Trojans were picked to be the standard bearer for 7A - after winning the 6A title the year before. But Lincoln was upset by Fleming Island in the first round.

"I didn't have to tell the kids about last year," said Shakir. "They told me. They were ready."

Lincoln won 27-17 and will face off with district foe Buchholz next Friday at home.

"It's nice to play at home again," said Shakir. "We play better at home and especially with Thanksgiving."

"But any time you're playing in the last weekend of November - it's a good thing," said the Lincoln coach.

Shakir can relate to having to put the pads up earlier than expected, but said a regular-season loss to Godby woke his team up.

"That was probably what we needed," said Shakir. "I hate that we lost, but it showed us that we cannot make the mistakes we made last year against Fleming Island and win."

"So many of these kids were around when we played for it all - and they've seen both extremes. To win it all and then get knocked out the first round next year," said Shakir. "There was no middle area for them. When you have the worst night of the year at the wrong time - you put the pads up."

"We may have had that 'worst night' against Godby," said Shakir. "But when things just aren't going your way, it can become a problem."

Unfinished business

That's the mantra at Boot Hill.

Ever since the clock in Orlando read 0:00 and the scoreboard read American Heritage 30, Madison County 3 - the Cowboys have been working.

Working to finish strong.

"We've been here before," said head coach Mike Coe. "We know what it takes to win. We just have to execute. "

Coe said he was not surprised by Pensacola Catholic's upset win over Trinity Christian, a win that will put the Cowboys against a familiar foe.

"Not in the least," said Coe."That's a good football team at Pensacola Catholic. They don't quit until the game is over."

Madison found that out earlier in the year and it almost cost them.

"That could have easily been us playing in Jacksonville Friday," Coe said. "They (Pensacola Catholic) pushed us hard."

The Cowboys have stayed healthy for the most part - especially after losing two starters going into last year's championship game.

"We are, like all the other teams, a little banged up," said Coe. "But we're just going to keep playing through it."



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