ST. PETERSBURG — St. Petersburg Catholic running back Keelyan Bryant said it's all about respect.
The Barons want some.
They want to be included in the conversation about the county's best teams, the county's potential playoff teams, the county's top programs.
That's the direction the Barons are pointed in.
Friday night against Robinson, St. Petersburg Catholic was knocked a little off course.
But unlike past Baron teams, they didn't travel too far down the wrong path.
"This is no setback," Bryant said, rather smartly, after Robinson thumped the Barons 33-7 in a key district game.
Sure, it hurt. The Barons could have seized control in Class 2A, District 5, which now belongs to the Knights.
But Bryant quickly noted that his team was already talking about getting back on the path towards the playoffs, its sights set on big must-win games in the coming weeks against Middleton and Jesuit.
If the Barons win 'em all, they can still go to the postseason.
"This was a big game," coach Tod Creneti said. "Tonight, we learned a tough lesson."
The lesson is a familiar one to Pinellas County teams.
The Barons, a solid team with some exciting skills position players, were just not quite ready for Hillsborough County's Knights, a very solid team with some devastatingly explosive skills position players.
They needed to play a perfect game (they didn't), recover every loose ball (they didn't), corral every potential interception (they didn't) and not let the big-play Knights turn in, well, big plays.
It could be summed up here: trailing 21-7 late in the first half, the Barons recovered a fumble on the kickoff, but the refs blew a quick whistle and Robinson kept the ball. The Knights converted two third and longs, benefitted from a personal foul and got lucky when the Barons dropped two easy interceptions.
Fourteen plays later, they scored before halftime and led 27-7.
The better team took advantage when the other team didn't.
"We played a very good football team that was clicking on all cylinders," Creneti said. "We have to get to the point where we can win, even when that's the case."
The Barons could barely win a game a few years back. And here they are, competing.
It's all Creneti promised when he took over after, you know, all that other stuff that everyone has moved on from happened, and he has made wonderful progress.
Will USC and Ohio State and all those big-time colleges be back on campus soon, checking out the hotshot Barons?
Probably not, but how often do guys like Chris Davis and Mike Ross come along?
(And feel free to ask any coach in Pinellas County that question; you'll see some sad faces.)
Will the Barons keep winning, keep contending in their district, stay in the football conversation? Probably.
Friday night was disappointing, no doubt. But there was still a positive vibe around the place. A little bit of hope. A chance.
It will probably come down to beating Jesuit, something the Barons had trouble doing even back in the heyday. They are 0-5 against the Tigers since 2003, including last year's 56-7 shellacking.
There would be no better way to truly distinguish itself from past teams. No better way to keep charging forward.
"We'll have no trouble just putting this behind us," Bryant said.
John Cotey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org