HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The head football coach at Armwood High School, Evan Davis, is calling the rivalry game between the Armwood Hawks and the Plant Panthers, “The Battle of the Bay.”
“We are excited about it,” Davis told me on Tuesday before the start of football practice.
When I asked him if this battle is the ideal battle to begin the regular season, he answered the question with a smile. “Yes, I mean, for everybody besides the two teams involved right? We like to get a little more practice, a little more figuring out who we are,” he said. “You will take Plant-Armwood I think any day of the week any time of the year.”
The programs are undoubtedly powerhouse programs. However, the Panthers have fallen to the Hawks in back-to-back years. You may think Davis is feeling confident but he knows he cannot underestimate this opponent.
“They are going to play hard for four quarters and something always goes their way,” he said. “There is something about Plant magic.”
Who will prevail in this magic show? The Armwood Hawks have a compelling history.
They will sprint onto their home field on Friday night with 16 of their 22 starters from the previous season. Those players led the team to a 13-2 record one year ago and those two losses came in the opening game against Tampa Bay Tech High School and in the final game, a state championship game, against Miami Northwestern High School.
Although the Hawks have only won one state championship game in the past nine years, they have advanced to that game seven times. Davis told me that accomplishment makes the title runs feel like “second nature” but it is not a feeling he allows himself or his team to take for granted.
“I think we have become so engulfed in being in love with the process here,” he said. “We love the Monday. We love the Tuesday. We have been very fortunate that we focus so much on those and ended up being able to play in state championships, getting our kids to buy into that daily process. It sounds crazy that our plan is a state championship.”
The plan may be crazy but it is clear. The head coach said the championship mindset is an element they are always trying to instill in their players.
“You cannot play a championship every day,” Davis said, “but having a championship mindset every day is something that you can have and that is what we are really pushing our kids for.”
He emphasized the importance of the football family at Armwood High School and, when I asked him who will be the leader of this team this season, he told me it is a family affair.
“We are a very strong senior class,” said Davis. “We have some strong senior leadership. We are expecting big things from our juniors, too. You talk about Desmond Watson, Agiye Hall, Charles Montgomery. Those guys carry a lot of talent. If that talent could also become leaders as well, that is where you become special.”
I will be visiting the visiting team, Plant High School, at practice on Wednesday evening. Additionally, I will be at the game on Friday to bring you the highlights in our show, the Friday Night Blitz.