The Robinson football team is off to its first 2-0 start since 2004, when a talented junior class of future college ballers -- led by QB Marcello Trigg and WR/DB Javier Arenas -- led the Knights.
Knights coach Mike DePue -- whose junior class of 23 players is full of home-grown South Tampa talent -- doesn't dodge the comparison to that squad, which was 8-2.
"We have a nice group of speed kids, a young quarterback who has come into his own, we’ve got some nice defensive people who fly around to the ball," DePue (left) said. "I definitely say there are some comparisons. Are they as good as those guys? Heck I don’t know, but it's kind of fun. It’s all cyclical in high school. We got all these kids when they were freshmen and we said they were special. They took their lumps the past couple of years."
Heading into tonight's district opener at Middleton, the Knights have the opportunity to match their combined win total of the past two seasons, but more importantly, they can get a leg up in a wide-open district that also includes Jesuit, Lennard and SPC.
"This is the most important game of the year," senior lineman Quinton Preston said. "We set the tone right now and we show other teams that we're ready to play this year."
DePue said the key will be Robinson's second-half play. The Knights' defense, led by outside linebacker Tevin Newman (game-high 13 tackles last week) and inside linebackers John Carter and Cameron Arnold, has done well in Robinson's 3-4 scheme, but the offense has yet to put teams away in the second half. DePue points to last week's win over King, when Robinson took a 13-6 halftime lead but needed a touchdown run by quarterback Blake Rice in overtime to win 30-24.
"We have got to be in the right place at the right time," said DePue, noting that both teams will have several players going both ways. "I think that third quarter is going to be that pivotal quarter."
Offensively, the biggest surprise has been Rice, a junior who will make his third varsity start tonight. He has managed Robinson's spread offense well and allowed DePue to move talented receiver Ruben Gonzalez to his true position out wide, giving the Knights a bevy of talented receivers along with Frankie Williams, Newman and sophomore Byron Pringle.
"If you would have told me a year ago he’d be doing what he’s doing with the maturity he’s doing it, I would have told you no way," DePue said of Rice. "Especially since June, he’s grown into a leader. He’s got a lot of potential. He’s an intelligent kid. He’s still learning the system."