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Over the next two weeks, we’ll pose and answer a question a day about the upcoming football season. Have a topic you think needs to be addressed? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After two dazzling seasons, will the Robinson Knights regress or reload?
Why do we ask? Because the nucleus of Knights that sparked the program’s resurgence has graduated. Robinson, winner of 20 games over the past two seasons, bid farewell to 22 seniors, half of whom signed with colleges. Among that class: the quarterback (Blake Rice), top rusher (J.J. Hubbard), top two receivers (Ruben Gonzalez, Frankie Williams) and top five tacklers. Combine those departures with a daunting nine-team district (5A-8), and a third consecutive playoff berth for the Port Tampa lads seems a formidable challenge.
What they’re saying
Knights coach Mike DePue: “I’ve told our team that we’re in the same position we were in two years ago when we had some kids graduate. We had some guys who had been around a couple of years but were unknown commodities. Nobody expected us to make the state semifinals when those guys were juniors. Last year there were super expectations for us. …We’re in the same situation now; a bunch of kids who are talented but unknown commodities.”
DePue, Part Deux: “We have great expectations to reload, but we have some glaring issues on our side, and we have to have kids step up — have to have kids step up — if we’re going to do another two-year run.”
What we say
Eduardo A. Encina: What separates Robinson from being an elite team is the program’s consistency. I remember the mid-2000s Knights teams led by Marcello Trigg and Javier Arenas that could play with anyone, but Robinson hit a rough patch before last year’s special senior class arrived.
Forgive me, Knights fans, but Robinson should look to its neighbor north of Gandy for the formula for consistency. Plant has it down. Winning is as much a mentality as talent, so this is a critical time for Robinson football, a passing of the torch.
And the Knights can’t sleep, because Lakewood and Spoto are always on the doorstep ready to crash the postseason party, and Blake will be better this year. One slipup and Robinson will be left at home. DePue, I think, will keep them focused, and after some scares, I think the Knights will end up runnerup.
Joey Knight: The Knights are the sleeper team in this district for three reasons: they’re talented, they now expect to win, and the schedule shapes up nicely.
The outgoing group revitalized the program and established a foundation of success upon which this team can build. Talent will never be an issue in Port Tampa; it’s just a bit greener than normal.
Fortunately for the Knights, the two games that likely will decide their playoff fate — at Spoto and home against Lakewood — are in late October. By then, they should possess a clear offensive identity.
Not to be overlooked is the presence of senior Kody Thomas, arguably the county’s best kicker. Don’t be surprised if he wins at least one game for Robinson.
DePue says he doesn’t feel any team will go unbeaten in the district. I disagree; Jesuit will run the table. But I’m picking the Knights as runnerup.
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