TAMPA — David Emmanuel was the first to come up limping.
Then it was Joey Ivie.
Janarion Grant got up slowly.
And so it went, as Robinson battered and bruised Pasco on Friday night in a stunning demolition that left even the Knights a little surprised.
Those who made the trip from Dade City, who have been treated to victory after dominant victory the past four seasons, were even more surprised.
Final score: 49-21.
But it felt worse.
“This isn’t Hudson,” yelled one of the coaches, after the Pirates started with a three and out.
The message was clear: it was going to take their best game of the season to win this thing.
The Pirates, though, played their worst and just never looked right Friday night in falling in the Class 5A region final.
Grant, so terrific since forever, never got going.
Emmanuel, a senior running back and one of the best Pasco’s ever had, never found his rhythm.
And too many times, Ivie, the celebrated Florida commitment and immovable force, was actually, well, movable.
Simply put, the Pirates were destroyed up front, and if their plan was to stop Zain Gilmore, it failed, miserably, which probably had a lot to do with a Robinson offensive line that showed it is clearly the class of Tampa Bay.
The Robinson quarterback had more than 200 yards rushing, and left the Pirates in his wake during an 80-yard touchdown run to break a 14-all tie near the end of the first half.
But the third quarter settled things. Robinson drove 73 yards, capped by another Gilmore score, and after stopping Pasco got the ball back and drove again, capped by, you guessed it, another Gilmore score.
Robinson was just better Friday night. Better up front, which made them better at quarterback, which made them better at running back, which made its defense better.
It was a nearly perfect effort, and Pasco was on the wrong end of it. It happens.
And FYI, not just to Pasco teams. It happened last year to Jesuit, when they ran into a team playing perfect football up in Dade City.
So let’s not make the Pirates walk the plank just yet, and leave the ship burning in the harbor.
Because this does not mean that Pasco was overrated, which I started to hear for the first time midway through the third quarter.
It doesn’t mean that Grant and Emmanuel and Ivie are Pasco County creations, who finally played some real football players and showed themselves to be less than they were made out to be.
And it doesn’t mean, as someone suggested, that we drop them from all of our rankings.
That’s wrong, and it’s unfair.
Mostly, it’s unfair to Robinson, which didn’t beat an overhyped, undeserving team. It beat a darned good Pasco team that deserved to be right where it was.
And it’s unfair to coach Tom McHugh, and his core of seniors, who have only won 45 games in four seasons.
The Pirates lost just five times. Four of those losses were in the playoffs, including once in the state semifinals. Just one of those losses was in the first round.
So why cheapen the Knights’ win, or the Pirates’ season?
Pasco may need to beef up the regular-season schedule to finally make its move to the next level. However, in a big district and rivalry games to play, there aren’t many spots to do so.
But would a few tough games during the regular season have prevented Friday’s meltdown?
I doubt it. I didn’t see a team losing because it wasn’t tested, I saw a team losing because the other team had better players, playing better.
Robinson is just that good, and on this night it played even better than everyone thought it would.
It was, really, an awesome performance and something you rarely see.
David Emmanuel and Janarion Grant stopped.
Joey Ivie neutralized.
John C. Cotey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.