One community could be described as rural countryside, the other urban waterside. One has an antique district, the other an Air Force base. Yet Dade City and Port Tampa — home to Pasco and Robinson, respectively — bear one striking similarity: Each has one high school around which the community rallies each autumn. Here’s a closer look at tonight’s Class 5A region final foes.
Pasco: Howard & David Bellamy (country music artists), Darren Hambrick (former University of Florida, NFL linebacker), Troy Hambrick (NFL alumnus), Gene Nelson (former major league pitcher)
Robinson: Javier Arenas (Kansas City Chiefs cornerback/return specialist), Hulk Hogan (professional wrestler), John Reaves (former University of Florida, NFL, USFL quarterback), Larry Smith (former University of Florida, NFL running back)
Pasco: The Pirates’ coaching staff includes three assistants — Jim Ward (class of ’84), Matt Jackson (’07) and offensive coordinator Brad Starling (’84) — who graduated from Pasco
Robinson: The Knights staff features eight alumni — Gene Blalock, Rob Burns, Ruben Hernandez, David Kerenan, Tommy Montero, Ross Powell, Josh Saunders and Shawn Taylor
Pasco: Backup QB Grant Starling (dad, Brad, is the offensive coordinator and a former Pirates quarterback); ATH Janarion Grant (uncles, Troy and Darren Hambrick, led Pasco to the 1992 state title); WR/S Nate Craig-Myers (relatives include former Pirate stars Trey Dudley-Giles, Josh Johnson and Issac Johnson)
Robinson: QB Zain Gilmore Jr. (dad, Zain, was Knights tailback and Florida Mr. Football in 1997); OT Connor Rafferty (dad, Robin, is a former Knights center); RB/S Martin Ruiz (dad, Armando, is a former Knights receiver)
Pasco: DB Josh Johnson earned second-team all-Big Ten honors this fall at Purdue and ranked second in the league with 19 passes defended. …DB Trey Dudley-Giles started seven games and broke up four passes as a true freshman at UMass. …Redshirt freshman S Jamie Byrd appeared in 11 games for TCU, and sophomore WR Hakeeme Ishmar played in six games at FAU.
Robinson: WR/DB Frankie Williams (a teammate of Johnson’s) was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week for his effort (six tackles, INT) in last week’s 56-35 win against Indiana. …WR Ruben Gonzalez is a sophomore receiver at USF. …DB Marqus Baker had 17 tackles and six pass deflections as a redshirt freshman at the University of Buffalo this season.
Friday night feel
“It’s like a big neighborhood. It’s really close-knit, and there’s a lot of support. There’s a great deal of expectations. For some reason, people don’t seem to grow up and move away. They grow up, they go to college and they come back. We have second-, third-generation kids that are here.” — Pasco coach Tom McHugh
“I’ve been going to Pasco games since I was in elementary school — since I can’t even remember when. It’s cool, living in their shoes and trying to do what they did.” — Pasco QB Ben Chandler
“I don’t know if it’s similar at other schools, but any time you’re walking onto the field along the fence line and ticket line, everybody’s always yelling out their class, their graduating class. Every night, we always have three or four classes having reunions. …I have a guy that e-mails me all the time just to say, ‘Hey, I’m from the class of ’74 and I just want to wish you luck’ and stuff like that. …People are very in touch with this small town we have in this big town.” — Robinson offensive line coach Shawn Taylor (Class of 2000), a third-generation Knights alumnus who has had 16 family members come through the school
“My biggest concern is defensively, keeping these guys from hitting the holes and going yard. They’ve got six or seven kids, a four-headed monster at quarterback, whom you never know where they’re gonna go. We’ve got to maintain gap control and keep them from going north and south.” — Robinson’s Mike DePue
Compiled by staff writers Joey Knight and Matt Baker.