TAMPA — We admit it, when the season’s still young and our adrenaline’s splashing against our sense of reason, we’ll tout a local game more than it probably merits. Hype, after all, is what keeps the bulletin-board industry solvent and Twitter-verse spinning. But some contests, such as Robinson-Jesuit, need nary a milliliter of hyperbole. For a smorgasbord of reasons, this matchup stands on its own. In fact, we maintain it’s the year’s best matchup in Hillsborough County. Yes, the best. How can we possibly say that? Here’s how:
In recent seasons, this game has taken on humongous playoff implications. The Knights-Tigers winner has gone on to win the district title each of the past three years. What’s more, these teams have occupied the same district since 1993, a 20-year streak that may end in 2013 because of Robinson’s ballooning student population. “Plant’s that natural rivalry game for us, but it really has no playoff implications,” Robinson coach Mike DePue said. “This has got everything.”
While Jesuit owned the Knights for a long spell, the Tigers have only a 3-2 edge over the past five meetings. In those five games, Robinson actually has outscored Jesuit 126-102. Two of those meetings were in the playoffs, with each winning one. You don’t get parity like that with Jesuit-TC.
This game doesn’t represent so much a contrast in offenses as it does a clash of wills. Both pride themselves on their formidability up front, and likely will try to assert themselves with a power run game to set up dangerous pass packages. “We don’t really care what you put in front of us, we’re still going to go about what we believe and that’s to run the ball,” Tigers senior two-way lineman Cameron Ruff said. “And our defense for sure knows that they want to do the same thing.”
South Florida connection
This contest even has something for the local college fan. Five of the game’s starters have committed to USF: Robinson DE/LG Bruce Hector and OL Connor Rafferty, Jesuit two-way linemen Ruff and Robby Garcia, and Tigers DE Brad Smith. Toss in Jesuit WR/S Travis Johnson (Miami), WR/CB Reggie Brown (FAU) and LB Parker Clonts (Elon), and the game features eight college commitments.
While players from both teams say no deep-seated hatred exists between them, they fully expect the intensity to come to a quick boil. “Last year I got my eyes gouged a little bit from one of their linebackers,” said Johnson, the Tigers receiver. “It’s just typical, trying to get players to retaliate so the second person gets caught.” Rafferty’s adjectives to describe the game: “Aggressive, extremely aggressive, very tensed-up, very high-energy.”
Adding to the game’s intrigue is the fact two former Tigers — assistant Scott DeCamp and NG Nahshon Simmons — are now at Robinson. Ruff said Simmons (6-2, 292 pounds), who also played hoops for Jesuit, has been chirping a bit via text messages. “I’m not sure if he’s been playing around or he wants to take this serious,” Ruff said with a chuckle, “because if he wants to take it serious he has something coming for him.” How bad does Simmons want this game? “More than anything,” he said.
What they’re saying
“I know they’re talking a lot of trash like they’re always known for doing, but we’ve just got to pull through that.” — Johnson
“It’s just going to be how both O-lines work during the game because both teams are just going to be running the ball at each other and not trying to trick anybody or do anything, just run straight at each other.” — Hector
“We have two viable running backs and if we get up there and block the way we’re capable of, we can move the ball. But it’s going to be a well-balanced thing. They’ve got a big-time threat in Travis Johnson, so we’ve got to be very wary of him. They’ve got a number of weapons that can strike at any time, but it’s that power game, and (coach James) Harrell loves to go to it, and he will at any time.” — DePue
“You have some kids who (go) back-and-forth and saying, “We’re going to get you guys this year.’ Coming from us, we still want to represent ourselves as district champs the past two years and we want to keep that tradition this year. We don’t want to be stopped.” — Ruff
Last five meetings
Oct. 2, 2009
Robinson 50, Jesuit 10: We think Knights DE Tevin Newman just sacked Bobby Eveld again
Oct. 1, 2010
Jesuit 29, Robinson 28: In the span of three second-half plays, Tigers WR Travis Johnson scores two huge TDs
Nov. 26, 2010
Robinson 21, Jesuit 7: Knights senior J.J. “Waterbug” Hubbard runs for 187 yards and two TDs
Sept. 16, 2011
Jesuit 21, Robinson 7: Tigers QB Tommy Eveld throws for 140 yards in relief of injured starter Aaron Paulsen
Nov. 25, 2011
Jesuit 35, Robinson 20: Tommy Eveld finds six different receivers for 286 yards, two TDs