Some things don’t change for Robeson football.
The Raiders have had 10 winning seasons and made nine IHSA playoff appearances since Fabray Collins took over as coach in 2002. That followed a long and successful stint by Roy Curry that included the Public League’s only trip to the state finals.
And Robeson always opens its season with a Sunday afternoon game at Gately Stadium against South Side rival Julian that doubles as a class reunion. A DJ playing old-school R&B for the scores of tailgaters in Gately’s south parking lot added to the party atmosphere for this year’s matchup.
But the Raiders are bringing something new to the table in 2013: a productive passing game.
Senior quarterback Lamont Barnes threw for 120 yards and three touchdowns as the Raiders beat Julian 42-0 on Sunday for their sixth straight win in the series.
Barnes also ran an interception back 95 yards for a touchdown on the last play of the game, putting an exclamation point on what was also a dominant performance by the Robeson defense.
But it was the air show that was a surprise coming from a program whose offense revolved around two-star running back Devon Sanders last fall.
Barnes is excited about the Raiders’ shift in philosophy.
“Everything I heard about Robeson, it was a lot of running,” Barnes said. “I know when I come here, I can change it up.”
He completed 6 of 12 passes, with scoring throws of 44 yards to Darius Donner in the first quarter, 19 yards to Dexter Sparks in the second and 46 yards to Willie Maddox in the third.
The emphasis on the pass came out of necessity, according to Collins.
“We couldn’t move the ball the way we wanted to [running],” he said. “We had to convert to another style of game.”
The Jaguars may not be the only opponent caught off guard by that.
“They thought we were going to run the ball,” Collins said. “I think we are going to be doing a little more passing. We’ve got a young line. Until they come around and start moving people off the ball, we’ll go to the passing game.”
The Raiders did gain 120 yards on 32 carries, but 50 of those yards came on a second-quarter scoring run by Darren Williams. Jihad Roundtree’s one-yard run accounted for Robeson’s other touchdown.
But Collins’ focus is on getting Barnes to be even more effective as a thrower.
“He ain’t consistent,” the coach said. “That’s his problem, being consistent. … I tell him, ‘Take your time … and set up.’ ’’
Barnes was in a hurry on that defensive highlight, though.
“I was kind of gassed, but I was too excited to think about it,” he said. “I never had a pick-six before.”
Sparks also had a pair of interceptions for Robeson, which forced seven turnovers. A positive for the Jaguars was the running of junior Steve Williams, who gained 64 yards on 19 carries.