MORE from our HomeTeam writers.
5A region final: Pasco (12-0) at Robinson (11-1), 7:30 p.m. Friday
Winner gets: Tallahassee Godby/Jacksonville Bishop Kenney winner in next week’s Class 5A state semifinal.
Breakdown: Both teams are capable of scoring on any play, no matter who has the ball. Robinson has scored a state-record 13 defensive touchdowns, led by six from Javaughn “JJ” Johnson. Pasco has scored 20 non-offensive TDs, with Malik Johns scoring on punt returns in the Pirates’ first four games. Robinson is battle-tested after quality wins over Lakewood and Jesuit and a two-point loss to Plant, while no opponent has finished within three touchdowns of Pasco.
Who’s hot: Pasco DE Morgan Flournory, who has racked up six sacks in two playoff games. Johns, who had an interception in the end zone and scored on a 95-yard rush in last week’s 52-0 win over Gainesville Eastside. Janarion Grant and David Emmanuel rushed for five TDs in the victory. …Robinson QB Zain Gilmore, who threw two touchdown passes — including the winner to Martin Ruiz — in last week’s comeback 22-19 win over Lakewood. Ruiz rushed for 136 yards, and senior Nahshon Simmons tallied 10 tackles and blocked a field goal.
Matt Baker’s pick: Pasco’s state-leading defense has overshadowed its explosive offense. Few teams boast the 1-2 punch of Grant and Emmanuel, and the Pirates have built depth beyond that. Robinson is Pasco’s toughest test of the season with a line that’s big and strong enough to slow down the Pirates’ pass rushers. But Grant and kicker Brandon Ray will be the difference late. Pasco, 21-20
Derek J. LaRiviere’s pick: The Knights have good size up front, but Pasco seems to have every base covered against Robinson. For every Ruiz, the Pirates have an Emmanuel. For every Gilmore, the Pirates have a Grant. At quarterback, the Pirates have a great thing going with Ben Chandler. As for size, Flournory (22.5 sacks) and UF commit Joey Ivie (12) are about as big and fast as the Knights have seen. Look for Pasco to stamp a return ticket to the state semifinals. Pasco, 31-28