The Jesuit student section, better known as “The Blue Tide,” is not beloved by everyone.
They were put on warning by the Lakeland police, snubbed by coaches and players of teams that couldn’t handle them, and were the subject of complaints from their biggest rival, Tampa Catholic.
The Blue Tide doesn’t care. They never stopped believin’ and were the heart of a boys basketball team that ran over everyone in its way to a state championship.
There are no true leaders of the Tide, but seeing is believing. In the win over Lake Wales that propelled Jesuit to the Final Four, no one ran to the concession stands at halftime. Instead, the Tide sang a loud version of Journey’s hit song, “Don’t Stop Believin’,” much louder than anything Journey itself has performed recently. Parents and students came down from the crowd just to take pictures of the section at the all-male school, singing, dancing, and just being high school kids. One student, dressed as Moses, literally parted the blue tide, walking up and down the section with a scepter.
It got louder in Lakeland where the Tigers won both games easily on their way to the school’s first title since 1984. Some of the leaders of the Tide don’t care who they offend – especially if it is Tampa Catholic.
The Blue Tide even has its own Facebook page and isn’t organized. It is just a meeting of a lot of minds, including ones from the all-female Academy of Holy Names, who help fill the seats.
“We have more than 600 students out of about 750 that go to the games and we were all in Lakeland,” said senior Anthony Sferra. “We started playing ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ one night and it became our tradition. We aren’t organized, but we meet in the parking lot before games to go over things.”
Sferra and senior Cameron Dillion played on the Jesuit football team and remember when the Blue Tide stormed the field after beating Tampa Catholic in the season finale this year. It might have been fun at the time, but the Tide was told that it better not happen again. In Lakeland, the fans stayed in the stands, so, after winning the title, the players stormed the stands.
The Tide is also part of timeout talks. When coach Neal Goldman calls timeout, the players gather around while members of the Tide reach toward the huddle to feel part of it.
Not that the Tide isn’t respectful when needed. After being scolded for charging the field against Tampa Catholic, the Tide showed up for the next meeting wearing suits and ties.
“We were trying to be classy,” senior Will Jennings said with a smirk. “It was worth it.”
The basketball season is over, but the Tide rolls on. Sferra said all Jesuit students show up for the games of the lesser known teams, but, with Jesuit ranked near the top of many national baseball polls, the Tide has plenty to cheer about the rest of the school.