STADIUM: Abe Brown Stadium, 4801 N 22nd St., Tampa CLASS-DISTRICT: 5A-9 (with Jesuit and Spoto) COACH: Alonzo Ashwood (2-18, third season) LAST SEASON: 2-8
Attackers crucial to Tigers’ plans
Middleton coach Alonzo Ashwood promises relentless pressure on opposing quarterbacks and offensive lines — from all over the field in a variety of styles.
For instance: Defensive end Gabriel Luyanda will be more of the traditional speed edge rusher, while linebacker Brandon Tillman applies straight ahead collisions and cornerback Robert Sanders brings an element of surprise.
“One thing I know is that these guys are never going to let up,” Ashwood said.
Complementing that group is junior linebacker Arthur Wiggins, who will bring his special athleticism from a variety of positions.
“(Wiggins) understands the defense and he is interchangeable in different packages,” Ashwood said. “He can drop into coverage or rush the passer. He has that versatility. He just raw right now.”
Said Wiggins: “I just try to set the tone and get spark (for the team),” Wiggins said. “I enjoy being in the box and being more physical.”
No fly zone
When not applying pressure, watch for Wiggins, Sanders and sophomore athlete Chalo Judge to blanket receivers. Sanders, a Division I recruit, had an interception in the spring game and is expected to pile up the picks through the season.
Ashwood is also excited about Judge, who joined Middleton in the spring.
“(Judge) can be something special,” Ashwood said.
Middleton went 0-10 in Ashwood’s first season as head coach. Last year, the Tigers won two games. Ashwood said this will be the key year for Middleton as it looks to finish above .500 for the first time since 2007.
“The third year (as the head coach) is when you see where you’re program is going,” Ashwood said.
Perhaps the biggest sign of Middleton’s growth has been the number of players that have come out for the team. Ashwood said he had 28 players his first season. So far, he said he has more than 50 players out for the team.
“It allows you to be more efficient in practice,” Ashwood said.
Leading the offensive line for Middleton will be junior nose guard Justo Polanco.
His brother, Luis, played for Middleton until 2008 and is now starting for Western Kentucky University. With Luis on the line, the Hilltoppers played in their first bowl game since 1963 last season.
“Justo can be just as good, “Ashwood said. “He looks up to (Luis).”
Middleton finds itself in an interesting position with just two other teams in its district, Jesuit and Spoto. Middleton played both teams tough last year, losing 16-0 and 8-0, respectively.
While Ashwood takes every game seriously, he knows with just two wins against these teams and Middleton can be district champions.
“Win one game (against either Jesuit or Spoto) and we go to the playoffs,” Ashwood said. “We are ready. We have to beat both of them.