A rough start to the season for Palm Beach Gardens, FL, Dwyer High School may mean a clear shot at the Class 4A state title for Seffner, FL, Armwood High. Following a devastating loss at the hands of Cleveland, OH, Glenville High School, Dwyer is considering pulling out of two games, a decision that would make the Panthers ineligible for the state series.
On a night filled with bad calls and abusive fans, Dwyer’s highly recruited, talented tight end Nick O’Leary answered antagonistic heckling from Cleveland-Glenville players with the middle finger, a gesture the Florida High School Athletic Association did not appreciate. The FHSAA suspended O’Leary for two games however Dwyer is trying to appeal the judgment and have the ruling reduced to one game.
Trailing the FHSAA’s verdict, Dwyer Head Coach Jack Daniels told the Palm Beach Post that the Panthers would stand behind O’Leary by forfeiting the two games in which he was shelved. Dwyer’s athletic director Tom Pagley has insisted that Dwyer will be playing without O’Leary, but if Dwyer were to forfeit, it would knock them out of the running for the Class 4A state championship.
According to the FHSAA, “A school that fails to play a contracted game as scheduled shall forfeit the game and shall become ineligible to participate in the state series that season or a future season” (rule 184.108.40.206.5).
Considering Dwyer defeated Armwood last season in the state semifinals, having them eliminated from the state playoffs would give the Hawks an open window to the Class 4A state title. Armwood has started the season on a good note with a 42-7 victory over Lithia, FL, Joe E. Newsome High September 3 and, in the preseason, a 42-0 win against Tampa, FL, George S. Middleton High.
Though the Hawks have been flying under the radar, they had a highly productive offseason and seem stronger than ever. A testament to their abilities, Harvellio Buie and Eric Striker replaced all-state Jermaine “Juice” McKinney as linebacker; “Juice”, who now plays free safety, had 119 tackles and 13 sacks last season. Senior inside linebackers Jake Zilbar and D.J. Hitchman also continue to put forth a strong showing with competitive statistics.
On special teams punter/kicker Ash Dudney is one of the top kickers in Hillsborough County last season converting 52 extra points and making five field goals while maintaining a weighted GPA over 6.0, and at the helm senior Josh Grady is a solid quarterback and a fantastic athlete who threw 18 touchdowns in 2009. Running back Matt Jones, who worked tightly with Grady against Middleton High, has a lot to live up to-coach Sean Callahan said Jones could become the best player in Armwood history-but has both the time and the talent needed to surpass any expectations placed on him.
With vast potential, junior guard Cody Waldrop and senior defensive lineman Sheldon Lewinson are both players to watch this season, Waldrop is Armwood’s best lineman weighing in around 300 pounds and Lewinson, at 6’2”, 230 pounds, is lightning fast. Anchoring the defensive front, senior David Tinsley is adaptable and effective.
Known as Armwood’s top receiver, fans panicked after watching A.J. King sustain what looked like a serious knee injury during the preseason game against Middleton. Fortunately, King’s injury will only keep him on the bench for a few weeks meaning he could be ready for the Hawks’ game against Tampa, FL, Tampa Bay Tech on September 16. Proving their solidarity, Armwood’s offense has excelled without King. When he returns to play, we can expect King to take the Hawks’ to the next level making them a difficult team to beat.
Offensively the Hawks have come back bigger and stronger than ever, and by strengthening their defensive line and elevating their secondary, Armwood has the works of a nationally ranked, state championship team.
Matt Porter, “FHSAA suspends Nick O’Leary for obscene gesture; Dwyer says it will forfeit rather than play without him”. Palm Beach Post.
“2010-2011 FHSAA Football”. FHSAA.