GAINESVILLE – Robinson has been flat out dominant in girls flag football over the past six years.
On Saturday afternoon, the Knights took down Miami Edison 28-6 at Citizens Field in Gainesville to win the Class 1A state title.
Robinson wrapped up its season 18-0 and now have won back to back state championships for the first time in program history. The Knights finished as the state runner-up in 2015, won it all in 2014 and appeared in the state quarterfinal in both 2012 and 2013.
Four seniors McKenna Tyson, Emily Draper, Sarah Jennewein and Charlotte Tuohy have been there the past four seasons which include three state titles.
Tyson, an Indian River State volleyball commit, was the only one who played in all four state title games. However, Draper (North Carolina), Jennewein (Dartmouth) and Tuohy (Florida) quickly emerged for Josh Saunders’ group.
Saunders has been with Robinson since flag football began at Robinson in 2006. He was an assistant in the inaugural year but took over as the head coach just one season later.
The senior group has put together a 72-2 varsity record and a 37-0 JV record over the past four seasons. That means in 111 games, they’ve only seen two losses.
Saunders calls that amazing. That’s one way to put it.
“This has been a long-standing tradition for all of them including the rest of the seniors that were on this team,” said Saunders from a team party at one of the player’s homes Saturday night. “It shows how much they work and how much they care about what they are doing.”
The Knights broke a state record with 776 points this season.
“In a sport where the end game is a pat on the back or congratulations, there is no scholarship at the end of this, media or fanfare,” Saunders said. “They do it because they love to do it.”
Saunders makes a good point about the sport being simply about fun. The recognition is minimal but the reward for this tight knit group is evident.
“The group of seniors that I’ve played with those four years really are some of the best athletes and teammates I’ve ever met,” Draper said. “The culture and the passion that this team has is something I could never find anywhere else and that is what makes the program so successful. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”
Jennewein, one of the core pieces for this group over the past few seasons said that everyone gained a sense of confidence and family from the success.
“It’s given us a common goal and has encouraged all of us to have pride in what we do,” she continued. “We know that we’re setting an example for others, and setting a precedent for the sport, and that’s definitely something special.”
Saunders simply said getting the first one is always awesome. Robinson became the first Hillsborough County team in 2014 to win a state title in flag football.
Most impressively, the Knights defeated Seminole Ridge in the state title game 7-6. It was all one classification with roughly 200 teams competing and Seminole Ridge had won 45 straight at that point.
Robinson lost to that same Seminole Ridge team in 2015.
Then after graduating a large senior class that year, Saunders said there was some doubt. However, the Knights bounced back and defeated Harmony 20-0 in the Class 1A state championship in 2016.
As for the most recent, coming today, Saunders called it phenomenal because the team was so dominant.
“They’d walk around school and kids would ask how bad did you win last night,” he said. “They didn’t care about who they played, they just wanted to know what the score was. They embraced the expectations.”
Championship or bust
I asked Saunders if this third title and second straight one makes for a championship or bust mentality. He responded with this.
“I think for them it is,” he said. “I can’t imagine if there was a season where we won districts and then lost in the first round that everyone would pat each other the back and say that was a nice season.”
He credits his players for what has been accomplished. He said “it’s them” and that “they do it for themselves.”
“We have a group of nine seniors that are leaving, but we have an eager group of seven juniors who are ready to step up,” Saunders said. “Lauren King saw how Emily Draper was the head captain this year and Draper was able to see how Megan Bohan was the captain the year before that.”
Robinson all celebrated together at one of the player’s houses with 60-70 people hanging out, Saunders says.
He said the girls watched the game 15 times today and that during Plant’s Class 2A state title win, his group all watched the Panthers game at a restaurant. Plant beat Seminole Ridge 19-6.
Saunders said they all cheered like it was their own group. He also mentioned how the Plant girls came out and rooted on Robinson loudly during its win. Very nice to see considering the heated rivalry between Plant and Robinson.
What lies ahead
The plan now is simple.
“The expectation is that we are going to work hard to be good but it is also to hang out with each other, be friends and family,” he said. “It’s all-encompassing that.”
ROBINSON 28, EDISON 6
R – Draper 41 catch from Salzman (6-0)
R – Safety (8-0)
R – Draper 1 catch from Salzman (15-0)
R – Draper 25 catch from Salzman (21-0)
R – Kemp 16 catch from Salzman (28-0)
E – Raymond 18 catch from Brown (28-6)
A small sample of the state championship party! These girls were on fire all season long! 🏆🥇🏈 🔥 🔥 pic.twitter.com/3l2osNEFod
— RobinsonFlagFootball (@RobinsonFlag) May 21, 2017
Photo credit: Florida HS Football
Jake Perper is the founder of Prep Sports Scouting. Make sure to follow along for all the updates on Twitter: @JakePerper.