PINELLAS PARK — Rashaan Watson likes life on the island.
That’s where the Pinellas Park junior defensive back spends most of his time during games. Every week, Watson has the assignment of covering an opponent’s best receiver.
Spread out wide. One-on-one. All by themselves.
“I like the challenge,” Watson said. “I like being out there one-on-one. It’s just you and him, and you have to shut him down.”
Watson has been shutting down receivers most of the season. Last week against Sarasota in the first round of the Class 7A playoffs, Watson held top receiver Shawn Bane to one catch for 8 yards in a 34-7 win.
As soon as Pinellas Park coaches identify an opponent’s top receiver on film, Watson gets the assignment. He has four interceptions this season and has been a big part of a defense that allows 10 points per game.
“A lot of teams don’t even throw his way,” Patriots coach Kenny Crawford said. “Well, they take a shot at him early because he covers so closely, but they don’t do it much later in the game.”
Crawford wasn’t counting on Watson when the season started. He was part of the mass transfer of Northeast players weeks before the start of the season. Most of those players went to Lakewood, but Watson was zoned for Pinellas Park.
The Patriots already had a solid defense. Crawford said it didn’t take long for Watson to prove he belonged on the field.
“He showed up and said he wanted to come back to his home school,” Crawford said. “We knew pretty quickly that he could play. He’s been phenomenal in practice. We knew he was good so we just figured, let’s play 10-on-10. Leave Rashaan out there by himself.”
Watson said he didn’t know many of his teammates when he transferred to Pinellas Park but figured if he played well he would fit right in.
“I’m very happy here,” Watson said. “I knew when I got here I just needed to prove myself. I needed to show the coaches what I can do.”
Watson and the Patriots face their biggest challenge against East Lake, a rematch of an Oct. 25 regular-season game in which the Eagles racked up 42 points and won easily.
East Lake has numerous offensive weapons, including receivers Artavis Scott and George Campbell. Watson covered Campbell in the first matchup so he knows what to expect.
“George talks a lot — a lot,” Watson said. “He was talking the whole game and I finally just got tired of it.”