The date is Oct. 3, 2018. A decade ago, Blake coach Sean Washington suffered through all the losses, all the people who said he could never build a winner at Blake. That was a while ago, when I-275 was just an eight-lane highway, before downtown Tampa became a hot spot, before the Rays won their first World Series. Washington, who lost 25 of his first 34 games as coach, built a program from the ground up, practicing patience with a team that was just 26 players deep 10 years ago in his fourth year as coach. Washington has always been quick to point out that local coaching legend Abe Brown won a state title at Blake in 1969 with just 35 players. "We've been battling the battle," Washington said back then. "But I believe any battle can be won. You can overcome any battle if you put the hard work and sacrifice in. I have no excuses." But Friday, he received another sideline Gatorade dousing for another win over Middleton at RaymondJames.com Stadium, the latest chapter in the county's top rivalry, which used to be based in history but now annually features two of Hillsborough's top programs. Believe it or not, such a future could happen. Four factors that can make Blake a winner. Create a rivalry with Middleton
Blake's annual game against Middleton is one of the highlights of the season because of the history of the schools and the atmosphere it brings to Raymond James Stadium. But the Yellow Jackets haven't won since 2004 and last season the Tigers beat Blake 40-0.
"It would be the monkey off our backs, to tell you the truth," Blake junior tight end/receiver Micheal McFarland said. "I've got family that went to Middleton and Blake so it runs all throughout the family. If it's ugly, whatever, I just want to win."
Convert on the field
Yes, Blake is 0-4 and was beaten handily by Jesuit in the season opener. But consider: If not for a muffed punt against Plant City, an 8-0 Week 2 loss might have been different. Despite big losses to Chamberlain and Alonso, Blake held the Chiefs to their lowest rushing output of the season and held the pass-happy Ravens to 121 yards.
"We're not that far away at all," said sophomore quarterback Eugene Davenport. Reorganization
Blake is a 4A school, stuck in a district with postseason regulars Plant and Jefferson. But Washington said the school's enrollment is down to 1,300 from 1,700 so it will likely be bumped to 3A when redistricting occurs next year.
The school's boundaries hurt.
"People who live (four blocks west) across Rome (Avenue) go to Jefferson," Washington said. "We have people who live on this side of Kennedy Boulevard (less than a mile south) who go to Plant. We've been stretched out."
When Blake reopened in 1997 as a fine arts magnet school, it didn't have the same sense of community as when it first opened in 1956.
"There aren't many kids walking to school," Washington said. "They would be bonding, being on the same page. Right now we're busing a lot of kids. The 37-year absence hurt us. Right now, by us not winning, a lot of kids are going to other programs. If they would come back into their own neighborhood, they'd be okay."