For all the mettle and moxie brandished by the Rays during their recent surge, they fell painfully shy of making history.
But they didn’t fail to make the cut — on our list of the most impressive victory/championship streaks in bay area history.
While the Rays’ recent 11-game win streak fell one triumph shy of the franchise record, the way they followed it up has been unprecedented. Joining them on this list are some wrestlers, runners and quite the lopsided rivalry.
Our criteria: length of streak, of course, along with degree of difficulty and plain ol’ improbability.
10. Devil Rays, 2004
12 consecutive victories
Amid another dreary summer during the organization’s prepubescent phase came this seismic jolt. Yep, the longest win streak in franchise history featured a 5.2-magnitude earthquake that hit San Diego before the Devil Rays’ 5-2 in on June 15. Other highlights included three walk-off wins, none more dramatic than Rey Sanchez’s inside-the-park home run against the Rockies on June 11. The 12 consecutive wins doubled the previous longest streak in club history.
9. Lightning, 2004
18-game points streak
The Lightning were playing their sixth game in nine days — not to mention the second of a back-to-back — when they fell 5-1 to Carolina on March 13, ending what remains the longest points streak in franchise lore. The run included an 11-game unbeaten streak (10-0-1-0) and 10-game home unbeaten streak (9-0-1-0), as well as a stretch of seven consecutive home wins. Less than three months later, they were hoisting the Stanley Cup.
8. Tampa Prep/Berkeley Prep volleyball, 1980-1999
Combined for at least one state title 20 consecutive years
For more than a generation, few local rivalries have featured the passion and parity of this private-school feud. From 1980-85, Tampa Prep won the Class A volleyball crown. Berkeley Prep won it four of the next five seasons, with 1987 (when the Terrapins captured it) the lone exception. In 1991, the Buccaneers moved to 2A and won two consecutive crowns, with Tampa Prep winning both years in 1A. And on it went, with either the Terrapins or Bucs (or both) winning a state crown every year through 1999.
7. Armwood High football, 2003-04
21-game win streak
Were it not for a midseason forfeit (for using an ineligible player), this streak would have stretched to 28 games, spanning Armwood’s entire 2003 and 2004 state championship seasons. Behind an overwhelming triple-option attack and perpetually fresh defense (the Hawks employed precious few two-way players), Armwood became the first Hillsborough County program to win a state title since 1969, launching a county football renaissance that continues to this day.
6. Caroline Annis, Plant High cross country
Four consecutive state titles, 1994-97
For a petite and pony-tailed honors student, Annis could be a ruthless soul crusher on a given terrain. The pace-setter on the back stretch of Plant’s five consecutive state team titles (1991-95), Annis became only the second four-time individual state champion in Florida history. Academically, she also had many peers chasing her: Annis scored better than 1,300 on the SAT, possessed a weighted GPA well above 5.0, and earned a scholarship to Stanford.
5. Rays, 2021
11 consecutive wins, 16 triumphs in 17 games
Just as criticism of their offense was reaching a crescendo, the Rays responded by winning 11 in a row from May 13-24, averaging nearly nine runs a game. Four times during the streak, they scored 10 or more runs. Six times, they came from behind, highlighted by a 6-4 victory against the Jays on May 23, when they scored four runs (three off bases-loaded walks) in the top of the ninth. Proving the surge was no fluke, Tampa Bay followed a 2-1 loss to Kansas City on May 25 with a five-game win streak.
4. Buccaneers, 2020-present
Eight consecutive wins (and counting)
The reigning Super Bowl champs, who return every single starter, enter their Sept. 9 prime-time season opener against the Cowboys seeking to extend their franchise-record win streak to nine games. Sticklers will say the streak actually stands at 8½, considering the Bucs outplayed the Chiefs in the second half of that 27-24 home defeat on Nov. 29. Tampa Bay has five victories of double-digit margins during the streak, including a 31-9 humiliation of Kansas City in that little Feb. 7 rematch at Raymond James Stadium.
3. David Craig/Eric Grajales, Brandon High wrestling
Both finished their prep careers undefeated
Of the dozens of individual state champs produced over the decades by the Eagles wrestling dynasty, only two have completed their careers without a loss. Craig, a four-time state champ in the upper weights, finished 184-0 and earned a scholarship to Lehigh. Grajales, who also won four titles, went 218-0 (mostly at 135 pounds) and became an All-American at Michigan.
2. Jesuit football vs. Tampa Catholic, 2000-present
21 consecutive Tigers victories
The most logic-defying entry on this list. Since the millennium dawned, Jesuit never has lost a game to its nearby rival. At various points during the Tigers’ two decades of dominance, Tampa Catholic (which has reached the playoffs 15 times since 2000) clearly has possessed better teams, suggesting the Crusaders’ futility has become a mental thing. Case in point, this quote from former TC coach Bob Henriquez after a 2008 loss to the Tigers: “Jesuit’s in my head.”
1. Brandon High wrestling, 1974-2008
459 consecutive dual-match victories
The only feat on this list to be immortalized by an ESPN documentary. As sure as headlocks hurt, the Eagles’ streak — a national record for any prep sport — never will be approached. Until it ended with a loss to Homestead South Dade (in something called the “Beat the Streak” tournament) on Jan. 5, 2008, Brandon’s run of dominance had spanned nearly six presidential administrations and almost as many evolutions in pop music, from Carole King to Coldplay.
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