TAMPA — One of the most remarkable things about the Robinson flag football program is that it has won five state titles with five different quarterbacks — with all of them winning in their first year as the starting QB.
Robinson coach Josh Saunders said all of them — Erin Dorsey (2014), Kayla Knowlton (2016), Olivia Salzman (2017), Lauren King (2018) and Macy McClintock (2019) — shared similar qualities: “They were all very smart and they were all athletic, but they weren’t runners. They weren’t going to win any foot races.”
At one time Knowlton ran well, but after a knee injury in her junior year, she came back as a pure pocket passer, basically just like the others.
Overall, Saunders said the key to the long-running success comes down to commitment and patience.
Which brings the Knights’ to this year’s record-breaking passer, senior Sydney Stout, who this season in 20 undefeated games has thrown 102 touchdown passes, breaking Dorsey’s single-season record of 78.
Like the other Robinson QBs before her, Stout was overwhelmingly humble when asked about throwing 100 TD passes in a season.
“It’s a result of the system,” she said. “It’s about preparation.”
As the saying has gone around Robinson for years: “You can have all the missiles in the world, but it doesn’t matter unless you have a missile-delivery system.”
The Robinson system is a calculated whirling-dervish of shifts and cuts where the quarterback — in the matter of a few seconds after she receives the ball — makes a read on the defense and delivers the missile on target.
Quick and efficient.
For Stout, the development has been years in the making, starting with plenty of watching from the sidelines as a freshman and sophomore, and then as the starting QB after last year’s season was wiped away by the coronavirus.
“(Stout) watched Macy McClintock win a state title in 2019, and that meant watching how she practiced every day and how she prepared for each opponent and how she conducted herself to be the best she could be,” Saunders said. “And that’s the way all of the quarterbacks have been. They have taught each other how to do this.”
This weekend at Mandarin High School in Jacksonville, Stout has a chance to add her name to the list of state title-winning QBs. The next step involves winning a Class A semifinal against Miami Edison (10-1) on Friday and following that with a state championship game victory over the winner of Tallahassee FAMU and Jensen Beach, which also play on Friday.
In Friday’s Class 2A semifinals, Newsome (18-1) will represent the Tampa Bay area with an excellent quarterback of its own, junior Devyn Silvestri, who this season has thrown 50 touchdown passes and run for another 11.
In a regular-season game against Robinson, Newsome and Silvestri gave the Knights their toughest game to date. Robinson ended up winning 22-18, but the Wolves definitely left an impression.
“Silvestri is the real deal,” Saunders said. “She is dynamic and tough to defend.”
Newsome coach Justin Shive said he appreciated playing Robinson because it simply made his team better.
“We want to do what Robinson and (2019 Class 2A state champ) Alonso have done with their programs,” said Shive, whose team defeated Alonso 27-0 last week in a regional semifinal. “We have made great strides in that direction.”
Shive added that Monday’s tight regional final against Bloomingdale, which the Wolves won 20-19, also made them better.
“If we would have won in another blowout (Newsome defeated Bloomingdale 39-0 during the regular season), I don’t think we would be as prepared (for Friday’s semifinal),” Shive said. “All of this is part of the process.”
Newsome takes on Navarre (14-3) in a Class 2A semifinal at 3 p.m. on Friday. The 2A final is set for 1 p.m. on Saturday.