We continue our 30 stops in 30 days at Tampa Robinson.
The Knights are coming off one of their most successful seasons in the storied history of the school. Last year, Robinson advanced all the way to the 5A state semifinals before falling 24-20 to eventual state champion Godby.
The odds of the Knights duplicating that success in 2013 are stacked against them.
First-year head coach Shawn Taylor inherits a team that returns just three starters on each side of the ball, plus they move up a classification to 6A and will play in a nine-team district, one of the state's toughest.
Still, Taylor is happy to be at the helm, stating "It's a great honor to coach at a school you played at and to do it with guys you played with before."
Taylor played for Robinson in the 1990's before attending and graduating from the University of Tampa in 2000. He has actually been coaching with the Knights for 10 years, but this will be his first as the head man on the sidelines.
When asked if his team is rebuilding or simply reloading, Taylor replied, "We are reloading and rebuilding mentally. We are trying to get these guys coached up because the former offensive line started 27 straight games together (including playoffs), but most of the OL we have now were running other teams plays on the scout team last season."
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Robinson lost 26 seniors, including 16 starters from last year's team.
Every lineman, including the tight end, has departed, and the quarterback has as well. As a matter of fact, neither quarterback he has now played football last season. One of them was the shortstop for the baseball team, and the other was a forward on the Knights' basketball squad.
Fortunately for Taylor, he does get Jordan Guyton back. Guyton was an all-state middle linebacker a year ago, and also plays fullback. Also returning is starting running back Michael Duclos, who has been playing since he was a freshman.
Taylor says out of 84 teams in 6A, Robinson is the smallest.
"I'd say we are the most disadvantaged 6A team in the state," he said. "Most of the schools we play will have 200 or 300 more kids. We use it as motivation with the guys but we have a lot of things to overcome."
According to Taylor, the school supposedly missed the cutoff to be in 5A by one student.
Robinson took it on the chin in their spring game, falling to rival Plant 22-0. Taylor feels the game was closer than the score and knows they will get another shot in week two at the school that is located just two miles away and has beat the Knights eight years in a row.
"If we run effectively and stop the run effectively we can be in every game no mater who we're playing, but if those things break down then we will be in trouble," said Taylor. "We are not good enough to turn the ball over and have a lot of penalties."