One team was late to the stadium, the crowd was sparse and a penalty was called seemingly every two minutes. But as the final seconds ticked away in Middleton's 26-14 win Thursday night over archrival Blake before an estimated crowd of 750 at Raymond James Stadium, Tigers linebacker Cortney Hunter couldn't stop smiling.
"This means a lot more," Hunter said. "It's a rivalry game."
For Middleton, it was the program's fifth straight win over the hated Yellow Jackets. For first-year Tigers coach Jason Stokes, it was win No. 1 at Middleton. For first-year Blake coach Harry Hubbard, it was loss No. 1 to the program he coached from 2002-08.
While at Middleton, Hubbard was 5-1 against Blake.
"For a minute, I got a quick flashback," Hubbard said.
Simply put, Middleton (1-1) won because its offense produced big plays and its defense stopped Blake (0-3) in its tracks.
"We didn't play very well," Hubbard said. "We kept shooting ourselves in the foot."
Running backs Earnest Mingo (88 yards, two touchdowns) and Vasty Paul (84 yards, one TD) did most of the damage for Middleton. Mingo scored on runs of 32 and 8 yards, the latter of which came in the fourth quarter and put the Tigers ahead 26-7.
"We have some weapons," Stokes said. "It feels awesome right now. We came so close to winning last week, now we just want to keep this thing going. We're going to celebrate for about 10 minutes and then we'll be back at practice tomorrow."
Middleton's defense held Blake to 114 yards.
"This hurts," said Blake senior tight end/defensive end Michael McFarland, a four-year letterwinner who went winless against Middleton. "People will get that on me the rest of my life."