TAMPA — Janarion Grant kept his head down on the end of the bench.
The dreadlocks covered the eyes of one of the best players in North Suncoast history as the running clock ticked away in Friday’s Class 5A region final. With four minutes left, he slipped off his gloves for the final time. There was nothing more he could do.
“It is hard to believe, actually,” Grant said. “I thought we could make it this time.”
Instead the Pirates’ season — and one of the finest careers in North Suncoast history — is over after a defeat that was as overwhelming as it was unexpected. Robinson 49, Pasco 21.
A week after a 52-0 shellacking of Gainesville Eastside with a running clock in the fourth quarter, Pasco’s role was reversed. After a season spent dominating the North Suncoast with no victories by fewer than three touchdowns, the Pirates were pounded and didn’t have an answer.
“Wow,” Pirates coach Tom McHugh said of the Knights. “They’re good.”
Pasco took a customary early lead with a 40-yard fumble return for a touchdown by sophomore Brandon Ray, but the Knights answered quickly — and often. Touchdown rushes by Kers Baysa and Robert Priester gave Robinson a 14-7 lead. That ended
Pasco’s streak of 24 quarters without trailing and gave the Pirates their second deficit all season.
Pasco answered with the first of Ben Chandler’s two passing touchdowns to freshman Nate Craig-Myers, but the Pirates failed to respond after that.
“There was nothing we could do,” McHugh said.
The Knights defensive line bottled Grant and standout RB David Emmanuel. Grant, a three-star recruit with 77 career touchdowns — to only 19 yards on seven rushes and receptions. Knights DB Brandon Peters picked Grant off in Robinson territory late in the third quarter to end one of the Pirates’ final scoring chances.
Emmanuel, one of Tampa Bay’s top rushers with more than 50 career TDs, mustered only 42 total yards. Both were held scoreless.
After dominating the county — and playoff opponents Citra North Marion and Gainesville Eastside — Pasco’s lines faltered.
Robinson’s offensive line plowed through hobbled Florida commit Joey Ivie and contained Morgan Flournory, the state’s sack leader (22.5), while opening up holes for 289 rushing yards. The Knights’ defensive line stuffed Pasco behind the line of scrimmage seven times.
“We couldn’t stop the run,” Grant said. “On offense we couldn’t make any plays.”
Tears flowed from some of Pasco’s seniors after they met in the end zone for the final time. Others covered their heads with towels.
If last season ended in heartbreak with a triple-overtime loss at Crawfordville Wakulla in the state semifinals, this one ended in a different kind of devastation. Domination and their worst defeat in years.
“They were just a better team,” McHugh said. “That’s all I can say.”