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Armwood relies on run game, defense in upset win over Jesuit football

Armwood upsets Jesuit behind a 109-yard rushing effort from Girard Pringle

SEFFNER, Fla. — It’s been quite the last couple of weeks for the Jesuit Tigers.

First was Jesuit last week losing its first game since Dec. 2020 when it fell 32-15 to Columbus on the road. Second was the sudden departure of state championship winning quarterback Luke Knight, who has since transferred to Merritt Island due to his family moving out of the area.

It wasn’t so much, though, about what Jesuit was doing on Friday. Armwood controlled the line of scrimmage with a strong performance from its offensive line and running back Girard Pringle in a dominating 27-10 win at Lyle Flagg Field. It’s the first time Jesuit has lost back-to-back games since 2017. 

“To be honest, it had nothing to do with Jesuit. It was huge for us to get started early that fast,” Armwood head coach Evan Davis said. “We’ve been slow starters. At the Lakeland game, we started slow. We just can’t do that. We have to play a complete four quarters.”

Fast and furious was the pace that Armwood’s offense scored at in the opening quarter, when Hawks’ quarterback Murdolph Jones connected on a 43-yard strike to wide receiver Kason Stokes for the game’s first score.

Jones was especially sharp in the beginning, completing his first five passes for 87 yards and a touchdown. Armwood went ahead 13-0 over Jesuit on a 1-yard sneak by Jones with 9:41 left in the second period.

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It was a rocky start for Griffin under center for the Tigers as he began the game 2-of-7 for 31 yards. The Tigers relied more upon the legs of Temple commitment Joquez Smith to carry the offense throughout the opening half.

Smith got Jesuit (2-2) on the board in the second quarter, scoring on an 11-yard scamper to the left side and pulling the Tigers within 13-7. Armwood threatened to move the ball on a final possession before halftime, but time would run out on the Hawks.

Armwood (3-1) wouldn’t let up on Griffin in the second half as the defense notched multiple sacks on the freshman signal caller. Griffin’s first start for Jesuit ended with a state line of 7-of-14, 63 yards and an interception. Smith finished the night rushing for 122 yards on 19 carries and one touchdown.

It would be Pringle that ended up being the running back everyone was talking about, with the sophomore rushing for 109 yards on 23 attempts. Jones was solid at quarterback for Armwood, finishing 7-of-12 for 126 yards and one score.

Armwood in its hay day was a perennial state powerhouse competing for state championships and when Jones was asked about if the Hawks re-took the Tampa pedestal as the top team, he replied with they never left as the No. 1 squad.

“I really don’t care about what’s going on over (at Jesuit),” Jones said. “All I cared about this whole week was leading my team, making sure we come in and we’re more disciplined. To me, we’re not retaking anything. We were always the best team in Tampa.”

Andy Villamarzo can be reached at andyvillamarzo@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @Andy_Villamarzo.