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Column: Should size (of the school) matter when it comes to records?

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Thu. November 15, 2012 | Joey Knight | Email

Column: Should size (of the school) matter when it comes to records?

As glyphs go, the asterisk gets a pretty notorious rap.

While it resembles a star, it symbolizes a smudge. In sports especially, it’s the teensy typographical disclaimer; a caustic keystroke indicating a record or notable achievement is lessened by circumstances.

And I was ready to slap one right beside Robert Davis’ name. Thankfully, reason slapped me back.

Barring an injury or sudden congestion of running lanes, Davis, the every-down spark plug for Class 2A Carrollwood Day School the past three years, will become Hillsborough County’s all-time rushing leader in Friday’s playoff opener against Moore Haven.

He needs 91 yards to surpass the record (5,320) set by Riverview’s Avious Steadman 11 seasons ago. Should he eclipse Steadman, I’m guessing the Patriots will give him a game ball. I suspect the coaches at Cincinnati, to whom Davis has committed, will give him a long-distance shout-out. Teammates will give bro hugs and back slaps.

Yet I wasn’t ready to give him his due.

Nothing personal. To the contrary, Davis is as polite as he is prolific. A student in Carrollwood Day’s International Baccalaureate program, he’ll likely graduate with a GPA nudging 4.0. The next profane Tweet I see from him will be the first. There’s nothing not to like.

Except his level of competition.

Davis has spent the past three years amassing his yardage against small-school opponents. Class 2A football is limited to schools with no more than 280 students. That’s a lot of lean rosters and tired defenses.

Cambridge Christian, against whom Davis ran for 299 yards in mid October, typically employed eight or nine two-way players, coach Bob Dare said. Indian Rocks Christian, which watched Davis rack up 171 on Oct. 26, used at least six.

Davis got hurt in a Sept. 28 loss at Admiral Farragut, but not before running for 130 yards. The Blue Jackets used eight two-way starters, coach Chris Miller said.

“Big fish in a small pond,” a large-school assistant said this week when Davis was mentioned.
I nodded in assent.

Patriots coach Lane McLaughlin huffed in dissent.

“Kenny Kelly was at Tampa Catholic (a 3A school) when he set those records,” said McLaughlin, referring to the former Crusaders quarterback who broke the county career passing yardage mark in the 1990s. “You going to put an asterisk by his name?”

McLaughlin wasn’t done, citing a few other small-school tailbacks (Pahokee’s Antone Smith, Yulee’s Derrick Henry) immortalized in state record books.

“(Davis) played on a start-up team from scratch,” added McLaughlin, whose program began 11-man football in 2008.

“It’s not our fault. We are who we are. We have nine (required) conference games. I’m not apologizing or accepting an asterisk. …If people want to put an asterisk by (Davis), go ahead and take every 2A player and put an asterisk by them.”

Fine by me. Better yet, how about separate annals for large- and small-school record holders, so as not to undermine the 7A and 8A players who reach the same statistical stratospheres against larger schools with deeper talent pools.

Who could argue that former Gaither star Lydell Ross’ 5,120 career rushing yards at 6A Gaither (1998-2000) carried more weight than Davis’ 5,000-plus yards against the Keswicks and Canterburys of the world? Separate record books made perfect sense.

It’s just that Alex Albert, Steadman’s coach at Riverview, made more.

Now an administrator at Minerva High in Ohio, Albert condensed logic and conquered my argument in a 70-second voice mail. The essence of his message: School size is one of countless variables that could be used against just about any record holder.

Should we plop an asterisk by former Ridgewood star Byronell Arline — who ran for a Pasco County-record 5,279 career yards the previous decade — because he faced a lot of woeful west Pasco County competition?

And how do we factor in a team’s style of offense?

“Avious ran pretty good, then again, you can look at it this way: I was a run-based offense, that’s all we did …kind of embarrassingly so,” Albert said. “So that also gave Avious an unfair advantage to get a (large) number of carries and that kind of thing.”

Valid point, and the variables were starting to accumulate like TV trucks on Bayshore Boulevard. While not budging from my Orwellian stance (some 5,000-yard rushers are more impressive than others), I knew disclaimers or divided record books no longer were practical.

“I think it’s a county record,” Albert said. “It is what it is, regardless of the classification.”

Agreed. Should Davis reach the record Friday, I’ll be among the first to Tweet my congratulations. Kid deserves it.

No ifs, asterisks or buts.

Joey Knight can be reached at jknight@tampabay.com or on Twitter @JoeyHomeTeam.

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