National power Robinson High shuts out Braden River 32-0
TAMPA – The Robinson High Flag football team showed why it is one of the best programs in the country.
After a close game in the second half, the Knights rolled to a 32-0 win over Braden River High in the Class 1A Region 2 Finals Monday night at AdvantHealth Training Center, the training complex of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Regional Semifinals Shutout:Braden River Flag Football Wins Regional Semifinals
Photos from the district finals:FLAG FOOTBALL PHOTOS: Gibbs High Gladiators win over Braden River Pirates
Robinson (19-2), a seven-time state champion, including the last six years, will play Mainland in Friday’s state semifinals at Mandarin High School. The Pirates finished their most successful season in program history 14-3.
After completing a pass for a long touchdown on his first offensive play of the game, Braden River allowed just one more touchdown in the first half and was 12-0 down at halftime.
On all three second-half possessions, sophomore quarterback Haidyn Spano connected with junior wide receiver senior top receiver Katejoin Robinson, increasing her touchdown reception to a team-high 28. Robinson also caught a PAT conversion pass for the Knights, which Number 1 team in Class 1A and fourth in the country by MaxPreps.
Difficult for pirate offensive
Although Cydnee Brooks completed her first eight passes, Braden River turned the ball over on his first possession on the downs to open the game.
The Pirates poked twice in the first half and flipped the ball over to Downs just before the end of the half.
“Their defense was pretty tough,” Brooks said. “We had chances, but we also missed those chances. It certainly could have been a better game.”
Brooks, a junior, completed 30 of 42 passes with an interception. She was fired three times.
Courtney Kawcak and Monique Schwalbach each caught nine passes. Four of Kawcak’s receptions went for first downs, as did two of Schwalbach’s. Aubrey Barak made six catches.
“They had a good plan,” said Braden River coach Amanda Porco. “They definitely did their homework and had a good strategy.
“We thought we had a good strategy too.”
It was the first time Braden River had been ruled out since last year’s district semifinals game against Newsome in Lithia, 20-0. It was the Knights’ 12th shutout of the season and extended their winning streak to nine games.
Defending Braden River, Brooklyn Epperson had a broken pass, Ameria Smith pulled out a pass, Liana Nesser pulled three flags for the Pirates.
Play again at the AdventHealth Training Center
It wasn’t the first time Braden River had played at AdventHealth Training Center.
The Pirates competed in a preseason event with many other teams across the state.
“It wasn’t like, oooh, Bucs Stadium or whatever. It was fine,” Brooks said.
The reason the game was played less than 9 miles from the Robinson High campus is because Knights’ Field is getting a facelift with new artificial turf.
“They were excited to come and play here. They were excited about the opportunity,” Porco said. “I don’t think it was too overwhelming for her. Things didn’t go our way today.”
It was the size of a regional final that excited Braden River more than the field and its surroundings.
“Even though we didn’t get the result we wanted, it was still a great experience to come to Tampa and play against a team like Robinson,” Brooks said. “We are learning a lot and planning for the next year.”
The next year is about to begin for Porco and her coaching staff of Malcolm Belton and Casey Fabianski.
“We’re going to start practicing tomorrow, get back to work and start over,” Porco said. “We’re going back to the drawing board.”
“It will set a higher standard and let them know that we can make it this far and go further,” Brooks said.
Farewell to eight seniors
Braden River will continue without his eight seniors: Brooklyn Epperson, Schwalbach, Ava Barak, Jamie Bolduc, Hannah Ferguson, Jasmine Hernandez, Kawcak and Nesser.
Porco pointed out one.
“Our seniors are our rock,” Porco said. “Hannah Ferguson has been here every four years. That’s their team walking off the field right there.”
Porco thought the 2023 team’s legacy was its togetherness. The coach said they were together almost too much.
She pointed out that the team took a charter bus to the prom, the entire team.
“That’s the story,” Porco said.