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August 9, 2011

RivalsHigh 100: No. 5 Armwood

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Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

RivalsHigh.com has begun its 2011 countdown, ranking the teams from No. 100 down to No. 1.

We started at No. 100 on July 25 and are now down to our final three days counting down from No. 10 to No. 1. Our top team will be unveiled on Wednesday morning on Rivals Radio - two weeks from the start of the season.

After that, we will wait until Sept. 5 for the next rankings, then have them every Monday during the season.

The team rankings were compiled by high school sports senior analyst Dallas Jackson, the Rivals AMP team, football recruiting analysts and the entire RivalsHigh network of publishers.

In case you missed it: Previous ranking groups | Post your thoughts about No. 5 Armwood

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No. 5 Armwood
COACH: Sean Callahan
LAST SEASON: 14-1
FINAL 2010 RANKING: No. 64 in RivalsHigh 100

Seffner (Fla.) Armwood coach Sean Callahan was not happy when his team lost in the Florida Class 4A final last fall. And he was not happy when his team ended the year No. 64 in the RivalsHigh 100 after working its way into the Top 10.

He's taking it personally - and so are his players.

"We are excited to get this season started," he said. "I am excited about this group of kids. They are senior-led and they are ready to forget how last season ended.

"This year, to a man, it is personal."

Armwood downed West Palm Beach (Fla.) Dwyer in the semifinals on a last-second field goal. Many thought that was a defacto state final game. Then the Hawks fell to an upstart Tallahassee (Fla.) Lincoln team, 17-14, on a last-second field goal in the final.

"We feel like we were the better team," Callahan said. "We all know we should have won. There aren't excuses for it because we didn't win that game, but we felt like we should have."

The Hawks held Lincoln to just 121 yards in the contest but made costly mistakes that kept it close. A fumble inside the Lincoln 10 yard line, a blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown and a roughing-the-punter penalty on the game's final drive that led to the losing field goal all helped in the failure.

"We have to bounce back from that," Callahan said. "And our kids have taken it upon themselves to do that."

They'll need to do it quickly.

The team opens its season on the road against fellow RivalsHigh 100 Preseason Top 10 member, No. 7-ranked Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman.

"We lose three hours going out there," Callahan said. "We will be playing in desert heat, and that is not the heat we are used to down here, and I am flying out 50 kids of which 35 probably never have flown and we will be in Vegas.

"That is only us. That doesn't take into account that we will be playing one of the most talented teams in the country."

Callahan wasn't being modest about the team he will take with him however.

"Watching Gorman on film, it is easy to see they are very talented," he said. "But we are pretty good ourselves. I have a lot of talented athletes."

With four senior offensive linemen that have been rated as a three-star or higher by Rivals.com, it begins up front for Armwood.

"Those guys are going to be so important for us this year," Callahan said. "We think that group is pretty special."

The line is led by four-star South Carolina commit Cody Waldrop (6-foot-3, 315 pounds). It includes other three-stars with college football opportunities: Cameron Dees (6-2, 280), Kevin McCoy (6-5, 275), and Brandon Teeling (6-3, 260). Its fifth member, John Jack Lightsey, is a senior transfer from Orlando (Fla.) Dr. Phillips where he played tackle and didn't allow a sack all season.

The Hawks offensive line will be opening holes for Florida-bound four-star running back Matt Jones - but not until he returns from injury. He is not expected to play against Bishop Gorman.

"Matt had a meniscus injury this summer," Callahan said. "We probably waited a little too long to get it checked out and now he is probably out for the Bishop Gorman game, but we expect him to be back to full strength soon after."

Not having Jones can give a flawed evaluation against Gorman, especially if the team loses a close game - a game that maybe Jones' presence could have made a difference. Callahan, however, won't hear of it.

"We can not use Matt not being there as an excuse," he said. "Some other kids will have to step up."

That or Callahan will rely on the Hawks' calling card: defense.

In the last five seasons, the Hawks defense has only allowed over 150 cumulative points in a season once, when it allowed 151 in 2006.

Since then, it has given up 96 in 2007, 93 in 2008, 148 in 2009 and 112 in 2010.

The strength of the team is usually its defensive front which has produced numerous Division I athletes. This year is no different.

Sheldon Lewinson, a Wake Forest commit, should cause problems in the trenches, allowing Eric Striker, an Oklahoma commit, to flow free at linebacker and make plays.

"We take pride in playing good defense," Callahan said. "We think this year's group will be similar to those in the past. They are athletic and fly to the football."

What Callahan says could separate this group from those in the past is the chip on the shoulder that they will play with.

"We are hungrier than we have been in the past," he said. "We think we should have won it all last year and it is showing this summer. We are working hard. There are so many things have to go right in a football game to win, so many little things. We know we won't get every single one of them right but we are going to work towards that."

With games against Bishop Gorman and local rivals Tampa (Fla.) Jefferson and Tampa (Fla.) Plant as well as a Class 6A that houses Miami (Fla.) Central and Miami (Fla.) Northwestern, a season earmarked as personal could end bookmarked as historic - with a national title.



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