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Ranking the most impressive win (or title) streaks in Tampa Bay history

Check out our list to see if the Rays’ recent surge ranks among the best in bay area sports lore.
Rays first baseman Ji-Man Choi celebrates in the dugout after his game-tying home run in the sixth inning of a 9-7 win against the Blue Jays on May 21 at TD Ballpark in Dunedin.
Rays first baseman Ji-Man Choi celebrates in the dugout after his game-tying home run in the sixth inning of a 9-7 win against the Blue Jays on May 21 at TD Ballpark in Dunedin. [ MENGSHIN LIN | Times ]
Published Jun. 2
Updated Jun. 2

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

Former Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella presided over a 12-game win streak in 2004. It remains the longest in club history.
Former Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella presided over a 12-game win streak in 2004. It remains the longest in club history. [ Times (2004) ]

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

From left, Lightning forward Vincent Lecavalier (4) celebrates along with Brad Richards (19), Dan Boyle (22) and Martin St. Louis (26) after Richards' power-play goal against the Flyers during Round 3 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The 2004 Lightning established a franchise record by scoring at least one point in 18 consecutive games.
From left, Lightning forward Vincent Lecavalier (4) celebrates along with Brad Richards (19), Dan Boyle (22) and Martin St. Louis (26) after Richards' power-play goal against the Flyers during Round 3 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The 2004 Lightning established a franchise record by scoring at least one point in 18 consecutive games. [ DIRK SHADD | Times (2004) ]

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

Tampa Prep's Justeen Patton, right,  tries to get the ball past Berkeley Prep defenders during a 1999 match. Every year from 1980-99, either the Terrapins or Buccaneers (or both) won a state volleyball title.
Tampa Prep's Justeen Patton, right, tries to get the ball past Berkeley Prep defenders during a 1999 match. Every year from 1980-99, either the Terrapins or Buccaneers (or both) won a state volleyball title. [ Times (1999) ]

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

Former Armwood High football coach Sean Callahan led the Hawks to consecutive state titles, and a 21-game win streak, in 2003 and 2004.
Former Armwood High football coach Sean Callahan led the Hawks to consecutive state titles, and a 21-game win streak, in 2003 and 2004. [ Times (2014) ]

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

Former Plant High girls cross country standout Caroline Annis won four consecutive state titles from 1994-97. Only one other Florida previously had achieved that feat.
Former Plant High girls cross country standout Caroline Annis won four consecutive state titles from 1994-97. Only one other Florida previously had achieved that feat. [ The Gainesville Sun ]

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

Veteran right-hander Rich Hill was a huge catalyst in the Rays' recent surge of 16 victories in a 17-game stretch.
Veteran right-hander Rich Hill was a huge catalyst in the Rays' recent surge of 16 victories in a 17-game stretch. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

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)

Bucs running back Leonard Fournette (28) works for extra yards during Super Bowl 55 against the Chiefs. Fournette and the Bucs enter their Sept. 9 season opener against the Cowboys riding a franchise-best eight-game winning streak.
Bucs running back Leonard Fournette (28) works for extra yards during Super Bowl 55 against the Chiefs. Fournette and the Bucs enter their Sept. 9 season opener against the Cowboys riding a franchise-best eight-game winning streak. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

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

Former Brandon High wrestling standout David Craig (top) went 184-0 during his prep career, and remains one of only two Eagles to finish their high school careers undefeated.
Former Brandon High wrestling standout David Craig (top) went 184-0 during his prep career, and remains one of only two Eagles to finish their high school careers undefeated. [ Times (2006) ]

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

Jesuit receiver Junior Vandeross turns a short pass into a 70-yard touchdown during a 35-21 victory against arch-rival Tampa Catholic last season.
Jesuit receiver Junior Vandeross turns a short pass into a 70-yard touchdown during a 35-21 victory against arch-rival Tampa Catholic last season. [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times (2020) ]

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

Brandon High wrestling coach Russ Cozart confers with Eagles 112-pounder Sean Joyce during his state title match (which Joyce won) in 2004. Cozart presided over a majority of the Eagles' 459 dual-match win streak, the nation's longest for any prep sport.
Brandon High wrestling coach Russ Cozart confers with Eagles 112-pounder Sean Joyce during his state title match (which Joyce won) in 2004. Cozart presided over a majority of the Eagles' 459 dual-match win streak, the nation's longest for any prep sport. [ Times (2004) ]

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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