TAMPA — Middleton coach Harry Hubbard took his team into Raymond James Stadium on Friday night looking for a much-needed victory.
His Tigers had dropped three in a row, albeit against top-notch competition. And the atmosphere and history of their rivalry game with Blake could be just the thing to reverse the losing.
Even though this game didn't draw the crowd it has in the past, the result was exactly what Middleton needed: a commanding 38-8 victory over the winless Yellow Jackets.
"Losing just isn't my forte, it doesn't sit well with me," said Hubbard, whose team had lost to Chamberlain, Plant and Hillsborough. "Playing good teams makes you better and it's going to make us better."
This win was the Tigers' fourth straight against the Yellow Jackets, who have lost only once in the series between the schools since Middleton reopened 2002.
But the annual rivalry game, which has drawn an average of 10,000 fans the past three years at Raymond James, drew an estimated 4,400 fans Friday, a sign that organizers might have to reconsider the venue for next year.
"But they were loud enough for me," Hubbard said of the crowd.
The Tigers (2-3) established their running game early, leaning on sophomore running back Maurice Campbell, who ran for 82 of his game-high 103 yards in the first half.
Middleton then scored three touchdowns on four Blake fourth-quarter turnovers, the last coming on a 26-yard fumble return by Campbell.
"That felt really great," said Campbell, who saw his most carries (18) this season. "This was a big win for us. We had to win."
Despite managing just 27 yards rushing, Blake (0-5) trailed only 12-8 at the half after senior wide receiver Micheal McFarland took over at quarterback and drove Blake 71 yards — he was 3-for-3 for 55 yards on the drive — for a touchdown in the final minute before halftime.
But Middleton took back momentum by opening the third quarter with a 10-play, 53-yard drive — all running plays — that ended on quarterback Greg Windham's 1-yard plunge.
The Tigers never looked back.
"I thought we were playing good in the first half," Blake coach Sean Washington said. "We let it get away from us. We really couldn't stop their running game, and when we did we were offsides."