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Friends dance to music while waiting out a rain delay after thunderstorms delayed the game between Zephyrhills and IMG Academy for over an hour on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022 in Zephyrhills.

On Friday night around Tampa Bay, there’s football

Three Tampa Bay Times photographers take a look at the happenings under the Friday Night Lights.
Friends dance to music while waiting out a rain delay after thunderstorms delayed the game between Zephyrhills and IMG Academy for over an hour on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022 in Zephyrhills. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Three Tampa Bay Times photographers take a look at the happenings under the Friday Night Lights.
Published Oct. 26|Updated Oct. 26

For several generations, the high school football game is common ground. Americans still head to the high school on Friday nights to cheer for their children or grandchildren, to support student athletes, show school spirit or to hang out with friends. It’s a place to see and be seen.

During sports assignments, Times photographers fix their lens on the action, deviating occasionally to scan the crowd, photograph the cheerleaders or the band. This time we were curious about the people at the games and what was happening off the field.. On Sept. 16, a rainy Friday night, we visited three high schools in three counties throughout Tampa Bay.

Luis Santana | Pasco County

Heavy rain and stormy conditions held up the game for over an hour when photographer Luis Santana arrived at Zephyrhills High School for their game against visiting school IMG Academy. Zephyrhills High football games are usually well attended and students are known to tailgate before the game, backing up their trucks next to the field. The rain did little to dampen spirits, as most kids present seemed happy to hang out with friends, either holding umbrellas or accepting the wet conditions.

Austin John, 16, plays with a lasso rope while tailgating.
Austin John, 16, plays with a lasso rope while tailgating. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Esthefany Medina, 15, and Jesus Tedeja, 17, try to stay dry under a shared umbrella, while it rained for over an hour, delaying kickoff.
Esthefany Medina, 15, and Jesus Tedeja, 17, try to stay dry under a shared umbrella, while it rained for over an hour, delaying kickoff. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
A player practices snaps before the start of the game.
A player practices snaps before the start of the game. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
A group of friends share umbrellas and hang out on the bleachers, laughing among themselves.
A group of friends share umbrellas and hang out on the bleachers, laughing among themselves. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Fans use umbrellas to try and keep dry in the bleachers during heavy rain.
Fans use umbrellas to try and keep dry in the bleachers during heavy rain. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Elijah Williams, 15, tosses a beach ball to friends while waiting out a rain delay.
Elijah Williams, 15, tosses a beach ball to friends while waiting out a rain delay. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
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Kali Woolfolk, 16, and Elijah Williams, 15, dance and goof off while waiting for the rain to start.
Kali Woolfolk, 16, and Elijah Williams, 15, dance and goof off while waiting for the rain to start. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Kids dance on top of a pickup truck while tailgating and hanging out with friends.
Kids dance on top of a pickup truck while tailgating and hanging out with friends. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Kaimdon, Jeremiah, Allena, and Gracie look toward the field from the back of a pickup truck, a common sight during games at Zephyrhills High School, where students have a tradition of tailgating.
Kaimdon, Jeremiah, Allena, and Gracie look toward the field from the back of a pickup truck, a common sight during games at Zephyrhills High School, where students have a tradition of tailgating. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Zephyrhills defensive tackle Gabe Coveny is pictured on the sidelines during the game.
Zephyrhills defensive tackle Gabe Coveny is pictured on the sidelines during the game. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Fans wearing tropical shirts and hats, cheer while watching the football game.
Fans wearing tropical shirts and hats, cheer while watching the football game. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

Dirk Shadd | Hillsborough County

If rain on your wedding day is good luck then maybe a thunder storm on your homecoming game is even better. The Middleton High crowning of the Homecoming queen and king was scheduled to happen at half time on the field at the Abe Brown Stadium, but the stormy conditions stalled the start of the game and forced the homecoming festivities to move inside the gym. As the angry clouds cleared and the weather delay was lifted, the rivalry game against Blake High was able to be played out for the resilient fans, friends and family that remained to watch from the soaked stands.

Blake High football players and Middleton cheerleaders leave the field after lightning in the area forced a weather delay and guests and participants were asked to file in to the school gym before the start of the game.
Blake High football players and Middleton cheerleaders leave the field after lightning in the area forced a weather delay and guests and participants were asked to file in to the school gym before the start of the game. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Michael Haynes grills hot dogs and hamburgers at the concession stand.
Michael Haynes grills hot dogs and hamburgers at the concession stand. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Rain drops cover the glass window of the announcer’s booth after Abe Brown Stadium emptied due to weather conditions.
Rain drops cover the glass window of the announcer’s booth after Abe Brown Stadium emptied due to weather conditions. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Inside the gym, Middleton freshmen Josh Brown, 14, and Leyrian Medina, 15, share a moment together in the stands while waiting for the all-clear during a weather delay.
Inside the gym, Middleton freshmen Josh Brown, 14, and Leyrian Medina, 15, share a moment together in the stands while waiting for the all-clear during a weather delay. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Line judge Alfred White smiles as he looks out from the officials' waiting room into the hallway near the gym.
Line judge Alfred White smiles as he looks out from the officials' waiting room into the hallway near the gym. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Julianna Andersen, 15, second from left, Anshika Mishra, 14, and Kyrie McDaniel, 14, laugh while passing a fellow student’s phone around while filming a TikTok as the Middleton High homecoming court sit together in the stands. The stormy conditions changed the plans to hold homecoming festivities on the football field so the king and queen were crowned in the gym, instead.
Julianna Andersen, 15, second from left, Anshika Mishra, 14, and Kyrie McDaniel, 14, laugh while passing a fellow student’s phone around while filming a TikTok as the Middleton High homecoming court sit together in the stands. The stormy conditions changed the plans to hold homecoming festivities on the football field so the king and queen were crowned in the gym, instead. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
The Middleton High homecoming court is pictured together in the stands of the gym during the coronation festivities.
The Middleton High homecoming court is pictured together in the stands of the gym during the coronation festivities. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Senior James King, 18, leaps and cheers as he is named homecoming king.
Senior James King, 18, leaps and cheers as he is named homecoming king. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
After the rain delay is lifted, fans gather back in the stands including Julia Yamada with her sons, Michiyoshi, 3, and Taisho, 11, as they snuggle under a blanket and umbrella.
After the rain delay is lifted, fans gather back in the stands including Julia Yamada with her sons, Michiyoshi, 3, and Taisho, 11, as they snuggle under a blanket and umbrella. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Sophomore Julianna Andersen, 15, wears a rain poncho over her Middleton High School cheer uniform in an attempt to stay dry on the sidelines.
Sophomore Julianna Andersen, 15, wears a rain poncho over her Middleton High School cheer uniform in an attempt to stay dry on the sidelines. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Special teams coach Bruce Barclay wears an umbrella hat while coaching Middleton, after rain delay was lifted.
Special teams coach Bruce Barclay wears an umbrella hat while coaching Middleton, after rain delay was lifted. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Gabriel Johnson, 11, and mom, Avanti Johnson, stand under their umbrella while watching the game from the sidelines.
Gabriel Johnson, 11, and mom, Avanti Johnson, stand under their umbrella while watching the game from the sidelines. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Douglas Clifford | Pinellas County

Despite a very active 2022 storm season, which soaked high school football games across Florida, players and fans pushed through a storm delay at Sponger Field in Tarpon Springs, using the time to socialize with friends, pick up a sideline football game and enjoy food. Drizzling rain and thunder failed to deter the grill master from smashing hamburgers onto a flaming pit as fans anticipated the game between the Tarpon Springs and Palm Harbor University High School varsity football teams, in Tarpon Springs.

Evelyn Francis, 14, center, warms up on trumpet while joining her band mates with the Tarpon Springs Outdoor Performance Ensemble before the start of the game between the Tarpon Springs High School and Palm Harbor University High School varsity football teams.
Evelyn Francis, 14, center, warms up on trumpet while joining her band mates with the Tarpon Springs Outdoor Performance Ensemble before the start of the game between the Tarpon Springs High School and Palm Harbor University High School varsity football teams. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Matthew Roberts, 11, of Tarpon Springs, left, breaks away from Bas Frioud, 7, of Clearwater, while playing football before the start of the varsity game.
Matthew Roberts, 11, of Tarpon Springs, left, breaks away from Bas Frioud, 7, of Clearwater, while playing football before the start of the varsity game. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Cheeseburgers are finished on a grill at the concession for fans attending the game.
Cheeseburgers are finished on a grill at the concession for fans attending the game. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Tarpon Springs High School cheerleading team head coach Brittany Bishop, left, meets with her cheerleaders, from left, Alexis Budd, 17, Jordan Bean, 17, and Krysten Snyder, 17, before the start of the game.
Tarpon Springs High School cheerleading team head coach Brittany Bishop, left, meets with her cheerleaders, from left, Alexis Budd, 17, Jordan Bean, 17, and Krysten Snyder, 17, before the start of the game. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Boys pick teams for a pickup game of football during a rain delay.
Boys pick teams for a pickup game of football during a rain delay. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
The Palm Harbor University High School varsity football team settles into warm ups while rain continues to fall.
The Palm Harbor University High School varsity football team settles into warm ups while rain continues to fall. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
The Tarpon Springs Sponger field is pictured empty during a rain delay.
The Tarpon Springs Sponger field is pictured empty during a rain delay. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Five-month-old Beau Ross settles into the arms of his mother Stormie Bonner, 24, of Palm Harbor, while they attend the game.
Five-month-old Beau Ross settles into the arms of his mother Stormie Bonner, 24, of Palm Harbor, while they attend the game. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Heavy rain falls soaking Spongers players on the sideline.
Heavy rain falls soaking Spongers players on the sideline. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Tarpon Springs High School Spongers fans Shaniya Joe, 15, left, and Alizae Reyes, 17, accept the rain while they study the players on the sidelines.
Tarpon Springs High School Spongers fans Shaniya Joe, 15, left, and Alizae Reyes, 17, accept the rain while they study the players on the sidelines. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Tarpon Springs High School Spongers fans congregate in the stands after weather conditions improved.
Tarpon Springs High School Spongers fans congregate in the stands after weather conditions improved. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Tarpon Springs High School Spongers fans, from left, Alizae Reyes, 17, Kemyah Winthrop, 14, Neko Thomas, 11, Laila Maciorski, 16, and Shaniya Joe, 15, (all) of Tarpon Springs, share an umbrella.
Tarpon Springs High School Spongers fans, from left, Alizae Reyes, 17, Kemyah Winthrop, 14, Neko Thomas, 11, Laila Maciorski, 16, and Shaniya Joe, 15, (all) of Tarpon Springs, share an umbrella. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Serenity Irizarry, 16, of Tarpon Springs, left, and Jessica Ma, 16, of Palm Harbor, share a serving of French fries from the concession stand.
Serenity Irizarry, 16, of Tarpon Springs, left, and Jessica Ma, 16, of Palm Harbor, share a serving of French fries from the concession stand. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Alizae Reyes, 17, of Tarpon Springs, shows her support for the Spongers.
Alizae Reyes, 17, of Tarpon Springs, shows her support for the Spongers. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
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