Transplant running backs bolster Armwood’s offense

Eric Wilson (Plant City) and Greg Pressley (Superior Collegiate) give the Hawks two dangerous options that opponents have to corral.
Armwood junior running back Eric Wilson (5) looks on toward his teammates during practice. (BRONTE WITTPENN | Times)
Armwood junior running back Eric Wilson (5) looks on toward his teammates during practice. (BRONTE WITTPENN | Times)
Published December 5 2018

SEFFNER — In last year's Class 6A state championship game against Miami Northwestern, Armwood's running attack was basically senior Brian Snead. Snead, who gained 1,378 yards and scored 16 touchdowns and is now at Ohio State, was going to get the ball. Good luck trying to stop him.

In this year's rematch with Northwestern, the Hawks have a completely different ground game.

Junior Eric Wilson and senior Greg Pressley have gotten a bulk of the carries. And neither player was at Armwood last season.

Wilson transferred from Plant City. As a freshman he was at Seffner Christian. Pressley transferred from Superior Collegiate in Clearwater.

Both have made an immediate impact. Wilson has gained 1,223 yards and scored 13 touchdowns. Pressley has 442 yards and four scores.

"From the first day I got here, they welcomed me with open arms," Wilson said. "It was all about a state championship. That's all we talked about."

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Wilson was almost destined to wind up at Armwood. His father, Eric Wilson Sr., played for coach Sean Callahan and was a 1995 graduate. He coached "E.J.," as he is known, throughout youth league. Wilson Sr. was the defensive coordinator at Seffner Christian when his son was a freshman.

After a year at Plant City, the Wilsons decided it was time to go to their zoned school, Armwood.

"I went here and that was a big part of it," said Wilson Sr., who is an assistant coach at Armwood and works with the inside linebackers. "I wanted him to be around the upper echelon players. You can only get better by being around players of that caliber."

Junior running back Eric Wilson has made a name for himself at Armwood, with more than 1,000 yards this season. (BRONTE WITTPENN | Times)

At Plant City, Wilson gained 648 yards to lead the team. But none of that mattered when he got to Armwood. The Hawks have a history of good running backs, so it was going to take a lot to impress his new teammates and coaches.

"We had other running backs so I knew coming to Armwood I wasn't going to have the job handed to me," Wilson said. "I had to work every day. I had to prove myself."

At 6-foot, 190 pounds, Wilson is a bruising back who gains yards up the middle. He has been hobbled by an ankle injury since the Ocala Vanguard region final. He played sparingly last week against Crestview but should be back to normal on Saturday.

Pressley is a different kind of back. He is a speedster who can run around defenses and break big runs.

"I'd say I'm more of a fast-twitch, shifty back," Pressley said. "I'm explosive. At any time I can take it to the house. (Eric) gets chunk yards. We bring different things, so a team can't game plan for us. They don't know what's coming."

Senior running back Greg Pressley is capable of  busting out big plays when the Hawks need them. (BRONTE WITTPENN | Times)

Like Wilson, Pressley said he has had to work hard to prove he belonged on the field. Wilson has emerged as the feature back, so Pressley doesn't get as many carries. Even though his workload has increased since Wilson's ankle injury, Pressley said he has to make every carry count.

"It makes me more hungry," Pressley said. "I feel like every time I touch it nobody should stop me. I don't get to touch the ball as much so when I do, I have to make the most out of it."

Neither Wilson nor Pressley knows what it's like to play in a state title game.

But games like Saturday's are why they wanted to be at Armwood.

"Been working really hard since the summer to be in this position," Pressley said. "We hope it's going to finally pay off."

Class 6A state final

Armwood vs. Miami Northwestern, 3 p.m. Saturday, Camping
World Stadium, Orlando