TAMPA — Moments before Friday night’s kickoff, Robinson coach Mike DePue wrapped an arm around senior Demetrius Page and walked him to a corner of Alumni Field.
There, DePue pointed out the bleachers, the bands, the billows of smoke rising from the concession stand grill. “I said, 'This is what high school football is all about,’ ” DePue said, his voice cracking.
These are the snapshot moments DePue is trying to capture in the last of his 30-plus seasons of prep coaching. He also wouldn’t mind bottling up the smackdown that followed the sentimentality.
The latest stop of DePue’s farewell tour was the most auspicious yet. A litany of big plays, including the Knights’ fifth interception return for a touchdown in three games, lifted Robinson (3-0, 2-0) to a 31-10 romp of the Tigers (1-2, 1-1) in what many deemed the de facto Class 5A, District 8 title game.
If Robinson goes on to capture the district crown, it will mark the fourth consecutive year the winner of this game has eventually claimed the title.
“Last year we left cryin’,” said sophomore Jahrvis Davenport, whose team’s previous trip to Alumni Field was a two-touchdown playoff loss in November. “Now we leave smilin’.”
Credit Davenport, and a handful of other big-play makers, with the grins. One play after a Tigers fumble at midfield in the first half’s final minute, Davenport got isolated behind Jesuit’s entire secondary and made a fingertip catch of a Zain Gilmore bomb for a 44-yard touchdown.
That gave Robinson a 28-3 halftime lead. The Knights converted three Jesuit turnovers — if you count a Tigers fake punt that failed — into first-half TDs. The biggest: safety Brandon Peters’ winding, reverse-field 75-yard interception return.
“(Secondary) coach (Scott) DeCamp called a double coverage on (Jesuit wideout Travis Johnson) and Peters went over and made a spectacular play,” said DePue, retiring this season after more than three decades at Robinson, the past 10 as head coach.
“I thought he was down and then he reversed field and he was gone. … We played great defense tonight.”
Sophomore Michael Duclos and senior Martin Ruiz broke loose for TD runs of 41 and 16 yards, respectively, on the Knights’ first two drives, giving Robinson a 14-0 lead 61/2 minutes into the game.
Jesuit managed 175 yards on the ground but couldn’t put a touchdown drive together until backup quarterback D.J. Diaz’s 13-yard TD to Cameron Dillion with 15 seconds to play.
Futilely trying to show balance, the Tigers passing game accounted for 83 yards, with one pass going longer than 11 yards until the final drive.
“I think we’ve got to get back to what we do,” Tigers coach James Harrell said. “If we have to run it 40 times we’ll run it 40 times and throw it three times, I don’t care. That’s the recipe here at Jesuit.”