The big Macs were hot at the Florida Citrus Bowl Saturday afternoon, in a matchup of teams ranked in the top 15 of the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 National Football Rankings presented by the Army National Guard.
and Leon McQuay
each scored on an interception return, and that powered Armwood (Seffner, Fla.)
to the Class 6A Florida state championship in a 40-31 win against an unbeaten Central (Miami, Fla.)
Armwood's defense, which forced four turnovers in the win, set the tone in the first quarter. On Central's opening drive, McCall snatched a pass by Rockets quarterback Austin Stock and rumbled 56 yards for a 7-0 lead. Late in the same quarter, McQuay intercepted Stock and ran 32 yards to make it 14-0.
The scores marked just the second time that a team scored twice on interceptions during a Florida state championship game.
The Hawks (15-0) also got help late in the game. Central took possession trailing 37-31 with 2:03 to play and could have taken the lead with a score. Armwood stopped Central's final drive near midfield with help from linebacker Eric Striker, an Oklahoma recruit who had 12 tackles.
Striker hurried Stock's throw on third down and combined with linebacker Lonzel Davis
to sack Stock on fourth down. Armwood junior Nick Feely
, the brother of NFL veteran kicker Jay Feely, booted a 43-yard field goal with 39 seconds to play to seal the win.
It was a typical showing from Armwood, which had two interceptions in its 46-38 semifinal win against Bartram Trail a week earlier.
Offensively, quarterback Alvin Bailey
led Armwood's effort. Bailey finished with three touchdowns, including two aerial strikes. He went 6-for-7 passing for 139 yards. Matt Jones caught three passes for 119 yards for Armwood. Central's sophomore phenom Joe Yearby
led all running backs with 101 rushing yards. He finished the season with 2,160 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns.
Armwood's victory gave the school its third state championship and its first in the new Class 6A. Armwood won the Class 4A state title in both 2003 and 2004. In 2010, Armwood lost 17-14 to Tallahassee Lincoln in the Class 4A state championship game.
Central (13-1) rallied back twice to within two points, but Armwood maintained an advantage for the entirety. The Rockets best shot at taking the lead came at the start of the second quarter when they took possession at the Hawks' 41-yard line after a 49-yard kick return by Darreall Joyner.
Two plays later, though, Armwood senior defensive lineman Sheldon Lewinson recovered a Rockets fumble and returned it 34 yards to shift the momentum back to Armwood. The Hawks struck immediately when Bailey connected with Wade Edwards on the left side for a 32-yard touchdown to put Armwood ahead 23-14.
Central countered when Dalvin Cooke received the kick near the goal line and ran 99 yards for a touchdown to make it 23-21. Cooke's return tied a state record for the longest kick return touchdown in the history of Florida's state championship series.
Armwood used a pair of impressive drives to increase its lead. Late in the third quarter, Bailey scored on a 19-yard pass from Javonte Sneed to cap a 12-play, 80-yard drive. After Central's Emilio Nadleman kicked a 36-yard field goal, Armwood scored with a single play. Jones scored an 80-yard touchdown on a pass from Bailey to put the Hawks ahead 37-24
With 5:01 to play, Central scored on Yearby's 5-yard touchdown run to cap an 11-play, 59-yard drive and set up a potential exciting finish. Yearby's touchdown left Central trailing 37-31, and the Rockets stopped Armwood's next drive to take over at their own 30-yard line. But Central simply couldn't handle Armwood's pressure and turned it over on downs.