TAMPA — No one could have said it any better than Robinson quarterback Zain Gilmore: “Everybody’s heart was dropping.”
Gilmore wasn’t describing the feeling at Jack Peters Stadium just before he flipped a 4-yard touchdown pass to Martin Ruiz with 14 seconds left for a 22-19 victory over Lakewood on Friday.
Instead, he was talking about Lakewood going for it — and failing — on fourth and 1 at its 40 with 2:41 left and a 19-14 lead.
"We knew we had to score,” Gilmore said.
In a Class 5A region semifinal involving 10-1 teams, Lakewood didn’t get the yard it needed nor the timeout coach Cory Moore said he requested.
Instead of punting, Moore hoped to get Robinson to jump offside. A Robinson lineman moved. But no flag was thrown, and Moore said he called a timeout. It wasn’t granted, however, and quarterback Tracy Johnson ran the football. He came up four chain links short of the first down.
Gilmore then drove the Knights to the Lakewood 4. There, he faked a handoff to Michael Duclos and lofted a soft pass to Ruiz in the left corner of the end zone.
“We knew (Lakewood) was going to bite on our running backs that were in the game,” Gilmore said. “So we called play-action and threw it over their heads.”
Ruiz’s night included 152 yards on 20 carries to go over 1,000 for the year.
“The guys played well, but I hated it went down to a spot,” Moore said of the failed fourth down. “If (Robinson) didn’t jump, I was going to call timeout. (The officials) didn’t give me timeout, and it was a horrible spot.”
For the first time this year, Robinson failed to score first. It then overcame a 13-0 first-quarter deficit.
“We stopped (Lakewood), and then our kids showed a lot of character,” Robinson coach Mike DePue said of the failed fourth down.
“The kids just never stopped, and it shows the character of Robinson football.”