With last year's crushing defeat in mind, the Plant City Raiders wanted to give Armwood a real fight on Friday, Aug. 26.
They gave the Hawks all they could handle for one half of football, but couldn't keep that momentum going in the second half of a 36-16 home loss.
Following a pregame moment of silence for former Raider Russell Kemp, who died Saturday, Aug. 20, Plant City looked focused and intense right from the opening kickoff – which resulted in a Raiders recovery after Armwood fumbled it. Plant City drove to Armwood's 10-yard line and hit a field goal to go up, 3-0, on the game's first possession.
With just over seven minutes to play, Cody Cribbs began to give the Hawks headaches. He intercepted his first of two pass attempts – both to targets in the end zone – at that time, and it was the first of three touchdowns he saved the Raiders from dealing with.
Armwood quarterback Devin Black, formerly of Lennard High, gave the Raiders fits: although the home team kept his arm in check many times, Black's speed and athleticism proved to be no match for anything but the officials' flags. The Hawks went ahead, 8-3, at the 9:33 mark by punching in a touchdown after a big gain by Black.
Armwood went for a two-point conversion after nearly every touchdown drive, possibly as a failsafe: the team's special-teams struggles were well-documented after last week's loss to Bradenton-Manatee.
The Hawks scored again at the 6:40 mark, also on a short run, but botched the two-point conversion and settled for a 14-3 lead. But the Raiders came roaring back, with running back Treshaun Ward scoring his first of two touchdowns on a 65-yard run at the 5:48 mark. A blocked PAT attempt put the score at 14-9, until a Plant City fumble recovery set up Ward's second score: a two-yard punch preceded by a 43-yard gain.
Ward's score and the successful PAT came as time expired, giving the Raiders a 16-14 lead at the half.
Both teams looked different in the second half, presumably because Armwood made several adjustments and Plant City couldn't come up with the same big plays.
Black scored early in the second half, running cleanly into the end zone with a spin move to put Armwood ahead for good, then at 22-16. He scored on another keeper at the start of the fourth quarter, putting Armwood ahead, 30-16.
Both teams' punt units struggled mightily in the half, but Plant City's struggles allowed Armwood to start all possessions in Raider territory until midway through the fourth quarter. Plant City quarterback Corey King grew visibly frustrated as the Hawks repeatedly stacked the middle and forced him to scramble, and was later subbed out for backup Peyton Cantu.
Penalties and punt-team issues hurt both teams right up until the end of the game, but the Hawks were able to capitalize more often. At the 3:22 mark of the fourth quarter, Armwood set the final score after a botched Plant City snap put the Hawks inside the Raiders' 10-yard line, scoring on another short run. On the plus side, Plant City was then able to block the Hawks' lone PAT attempt of the evening.
In other area action, Hillsborough beat Durant, 17-7, and Brandon beat Strawberry Crest, 23-6.