Flag football: Unbeaten Robinson heads back to state

The defending Class A champion Knights shut out Bradenton Southeast 26-0.
Published May 7, 2019

TAMPA ― For the 10 seniors who make up the Robinson flag football team, winning it all isn’t so much a goal as it is an assumption.

“Every season that they’ve been a part of has ended in us winning a state title. So for them, I think they’ve really embraced the expectation,” Knights coach Joshua Saunders said. “I tried to tell them, Winning a state title every year you’re in high school, that doesn’t happen. That doesn’t happen to anyone, for any sport, anywhere.”

After Monday night’s 26-0 victory against Bradenton Southeast in the Class A region final, the Knights are one step closer to achieving the seemingly impossible.

Senior Alexis Smith got things going early for Robinson against the Seminoles, scoring on a 60-yard touchdown reception on the Knights’ second offensive play of the game.

In the early going, though, Southeast gave undefeated Robinson some trouble. The Knights were just 4 yards away from scoring another touchdown on their second drive of the game, but the Seminoles picked off quarterback Macy McClintock in the end zone.

Southeast notched another interception on Robinson’s very next possession.

Saunders began giving his squad — which has lost just three games in the past four years — small challenges to help them get over the hump.

Related: RELATED: Robinson looks to continue area's flag football dominance

The first was to score from 70 yards away as the first-half clock dwindled. With a 17-yard touchdown pass from McClintock to junior Emily Kemp, the reigning Class A player of the year, that’s exactly what they did as time expired. Robinson took a 12-0 lead into the halftime break.

But to allow the Knights to breathe even easier, Saunders gave them one more task to accomplish once play resumed.

“I told them at the half, ‘You want to finish the game, you take the ball and you drive down the field and score,’ and that’s what they did,” Saunders said about McClintock’s third quarter, 9-yard touchdown pass to Sophia Bailey. “We try to look for individual challenges, because sometimes in some games it won’t be one.”

Now with the momentum and a sixth straight trip to the state semifinals nearing, Robinson continued to exert its dominance over the Seminoles. With less than a minute to play in the third quarter, Smith scored her second touchdown of the game on a 10-yard run.

“I either had an option to pitch it to Brooke (Volpi) or keep it,” said Smith, who also plays softball for the Knights. “I saw everyone running with Brooke because we had run the play so much … so once I saw everyone run with her I knew I could get it.”

This weekend, the Knights will return to a much familiar place when it competes in the state final four in Boca Raton.

But unlike other teams it might see there, Robinson has a little something extra on the line.

“I’ve never lost a game on JV and I’ve never lost a game this season yet,” McClintock said. “I don’t want that feeling of what it’s like to lose.”