ST. PETERSBURG — In the biggest game of the season, Robinson didn’t come up with its biggest effort. In fact, it probably wasn’t even the Knights’ second best-effort.
But what Robinson did do was good enough to beat Lakewood 19-8 on Friday in a game that determined the champion of Class 5A, District 8. The Spartans, though, are guaranteed the runnerup spot and a playoff berth.
“The first half was an A-minus,” Robinson coach Mike Depue said. “The second half was a D. That averages to a C-plus. But that’s a passing grade. And guess what? We’re district champs and in the playoffs.”
Robinson looked like the better team in the first half. Just 31 seconds into the game, Carlos Duclos ran around the left end, found a huge hole and ran untouched 50 yards for the score. The extra point was botched.
“They were playing too aggressive,” Duclos said. “We just called a run to the outside, and it was wide open. It was a huge hole.”
Lakewood got down to the Robinson 10 on its first drive, but a sack and motion penalty helped end the drive. That was as close as the Spartans got to the end zone in the first half.
After a punt and missed 30-yard field goal, Robinson found the end zone again in the second quarter on a 5-yard run up the middle by Martin Ruiz. And on the next Robinson drive, quarterback Zain Gilmore scrambled 18 yards to make it 19-0.
That was the score at halftime, and it looked as if the only question in the second half would be how many points Robinson would get.
But Lakewood didn’t go away.
Despite an interception thrown by its quarterback, Tracy Johnson, to start the half, Lakewood’s defense held on two straight drives. Then the offense found a spark.
With Johnson out with a concussion, Rodney Adams stepped in at quarterback. Running the wildcat, Adams started to carve out big chunks of yards. On second and goal from the 3 to start the fourth quarter, Adams plowed in.
Holder Marquez Valdes bobbled the extra point snap, but he salvaged the play by running around the left side for a two-point conversion.
That got Robinson’s attention.
“I guess we got relaxed,” Gilmore said.
“We thought we had the game won already. But the game wasn’t over, and they showed that by scoring. After they scored and the band got a little louder, we knew it was still a game.”
With its offense sputtering, the Knights defense held when it needed to.
With four minutes left, the Spartans drove to the Knights 7. But on fourth and goal, Jocqui Ellison was sacked.
“Our guys played with a lot of heart and showed a lot of class,” Lakewood coach Cory Moore said. “There were numerous times when they could’ve given up, and they didn’t. And I told them after the game our season is a long way from being over. We have an opportunity to continue playing, and we’ll probably see those guys again if things go as planned.”