Laterian Latimer could only watch the last time his team played Robinson. The senior running back was sidelined due to a concussion sustained the week before against Jesuit.
There was nothing he could do as his teammates struggled to find running room against Robinson’s stingy defense. The Spartans got 145 yards via the ground against the Knights, but 79 of those came in the second half when Rodney Adams was moved to quarterback.
But Latimer is healthy and heading into the rematch with a head of steam.
Last week in a Class 5A region quarterfinal against Orlando Bishop Moore, Latimer scored two touchdowns to help the Spartans rack up 424 yards of offense. This season he has scored eight touchdowns to help the Spartans — who average 159.2 yards rushing per game — to a 10-1 record.
“Lat is a little special because he can run and catch and do the whole nine yards,’’ Lakewood coach Cory Moore said. “He’s one of those guys we’re pretty excited about.’’
Prior to the season, Moore wasn’t sure about his running game. Latimer, Jocqui Ellison and Zamarie Johnson all returned but none had starting experience. It didn’t take long for the trio to establish themselves.
The Spartans ran all over Seminole in the season opener and, except for Robinson, have been cruising. While Ellison has played a little at quarterback and Johnson is a big-play back, Latimer sees himself as a runner who can wear a defense out.
“I’m more of a patient runner,’’ Latimer said. “When I find my hole I take it.’’
With Latimer back in the lineup, the only question mark for the Spartans is whether receiver Marquez Valdes will be healthy enough to play. Valdes was taken to the hospital after suffering a head injury against Bishop Moore. Moore said Valdes will be a game-day decision, and if he can’t go, Andrew Davis will start.
Latimer is sure to get some touches early since the Knights (10-1) did not see him the first time. Robinson has only allowed eight rushing touchdowns this season — and four of those came in the fourth quarter when the game was essentially out of reach for opponents.
The Knights have only allowed more than 200 yards rushing twice, in a two-point loss to defending state champion Plant and in last week’s playoff rout of Port Orange Atlantic.
A soft-spoken player, Latimer insists he’s not overly excited to play Robinson. He looks at it as business as usual, though this could be his last game in a Spartan uniform.
“I’m not taking it any differently than any other game,’’ Latimer said. “At Lakewood, we go into every game with a chip on our shoulder. We’re always looked at as the underdogs. It’s a big game. It’s win or go home.
“But if we overthink it we’re going to end up losing.’’
Rodney Page can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.