tampabay.com

Tigers pull off emotional win

Middleton takes an early lead over Blake and holds on before 9,000 at Raymond James Stadium.

By SCOTT PURKS
Published September 24, 2006


TAMPA - It looked like Middleton's Tigers won the Super Bowl, the way they were jumping, cheering and pumping their fists to more than 9,000 fans after a 19-12 victory Saturday at Raymond James Stadium.

Blake? Well, there were tears, even from coach Sean Washington.

"You have to understand," Washington said, "this game means so much to our team, our school and our community. This week it doesn't matter what our records are (Middleton 3-2, Blake 2-2). It's more than that. We put so much emotion into this week you can't imagine. We want to win every game, but we really want to win this one."

Emotions churned down to the final 30 seconds when the Yellow Jackets threw an interception inside Middleton's 20-yard line, a play Middleton coach Harry Hubbard said led to a huge relief.

"I knew (Blake) wasn't going to give up," Hubbard said. "I knew that."

Midway through the fourth quarter it appeared Middleton pretty much sealed things when Tigers quarterback DeAndre Presley rushed five yards for a touchdown, making it 19-6.

Blake, however, struck back with a 72-yard drive that took less than 2 minutes and ended with a 35-yard touchdown pass from Mark Mosquera to Mychal Stanford.

"We shouldn't have allowed that to happen." Hubbard said. "We knew they were going to be throwing in that situation, and yet we allowed it to happen. We shouldn't have given them that momentum."

Middleton controlled the momentum much of the day with the running of Carlton Jones (23 rushes, 170 yards) and the all-around play of Presley. Presley completed 4 of 7 passes for 81 yards, including a 67-yard first-quarter touchdown to Jonathan Sanders.

"I noticed that we had one-on-one (with Sanders), so I checked off at the line and called a nine route (fly pattern)," Presley said. "I took a good hit and thought I overthrew it at first. But I had confidence in Jonathan."

The play gave Middleton a 7-6 lead, one it didn't give up the rest of the way.

"We know what works for us," Hubbard said. "And this year that's running the ball. We did that pretty well today, but we still made too many mistakes.

"Now, hopefully, we can come back strong next week and not have a letdown after all the emotion this week. We have a big game Friday (against Hillsborough), and we need to get focused for that."

Washington, tears rolling down his cheeks beneath his sunglasses, said: "Hopefully we'll pick ourselves back up after this emotional loss. I think we can. I think we'll show what we're made of (next week)."