Football: With 16 players suspended, Middleton no match for Bloomingdale
TAMPA – It was only the first quarter of Middleton’s game against Bloomingdale, but the defense, having just allowed a 43-yard field goal, tiredly walked of the field and slumped down onto the sideline bench.
“You’re scared,” a coach shouted at them. “You can’t play this game scared.”
But for many of the Tigers, Monday night was the first time they’d seen that much of the field in a high school game.
Last Thursday, a brawl broke out during the third quarter of the Tigers’ matchup with Jefferson. Players from both sidelines got involved, and punches were thrown. The game was immediately halted, and 16 Tigers, including eight defensive starters, were suspended by the school for Monday’s game against the Bulls.
And all night, Bloomingdale capitalized on it.
The Bulls had more than 300 yards of offense Monday night, and running back Levi Williams stole the show, dismantling the Middleton defense on the way to a 36-9 victory.
With only a couple days to prepare for the Tigers since Thursday’s incident, Bloomingdale coach Max Warner said they didn’t make any changes to their game plan based on Middleton suspensions. Quite simply, they wanted to run the ball, and that’s exactly what they did.
“The offensive line did a really good job opening holes for Rodney (Roseboro III) and Levi,” he said. “I think it was a team effort offensively and defensively tonight.”
Bloomingdale wasted no time taking advantage of Middleton’s misfortune, scoring a touchdown on its very first drive. In fact, the Bulls (2-2) never punted in the first half, scoring on three of its next four drives. The Bulls’ only offensive miscue was a first-quarter fumble, which the Tigers quickly turned into a 31-yard field goal. It was the only points Middleton could muster in the first half.
“They know they can’t put our teammates in this position again, because we needed them tonight,” said Middleton coach Fred Reid, who pulled five players up from JV for Monday’s game. “If we had most of those guys, those key guys, it would have probably been a different ball game.”
Immediately after the break, Middleton seemed to come alive. The defense forced a three-and-out, and when the Tigers took over, it wasn’t long before Frederick Davis Jr. connected with Maytray Batchelor for a 13-yard touchdown grab.
The excitement, though, was short-lived, as Bloomingdale followed with a 43-yard halfback pass, scoring a touchdown on a 10-yard Williams run the very next play.
Watching from the sideline Monday night was Middleton (3-1) athletic director Donald Hill. He was solemn, but it wasn’t because of the score.
“I coached football for a long time, and I can honestly say I’ve never witnessed anything like that,” Hill said of the brawl. “It was incredibly disappointing. I don’t even know if disappointing is the right adjective.
The Tigers will now wait to hear if the FHSAA will impose any further suspensions and if they'll rule last week's game a loss or have it resume at a later date. Reid said he hopes that since the school took its own action, there won’t be any more penalties handed down. Middleton’s annual rivalry game with Blake is slated for Friday, and he hopes to have all his players back for it.
“We’re going to use this as a learning experience,” Hill said.
And as the Tigers trudged off their home field after Mondays loss, the consequence seemed clear.