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Manatee rolls Tampa Plant in pre-season game, preps for Woodland Hills

Written by: on Sunday, August 29th, 2010


About a half-hour before Manatee kicked off its 2010 season with a preseason game against defending Florida 5A state champion Tampa Plant, rain poured down.

Tropical downpours are very typical in Florida.

“That rain probably cost us about 2,000 fans,” said Manatee head coach/athletic director Joe Kinnan (pronounced Ki-neigh-un). “We were anticipating a full house, ESPN was there (to broadcast the game)…The fact of who we were and who we were playing was a very big deal.”

Then, when it came time to play the game, Manatee came down like rain on Plant.

The Hurricanes surrendered an early touchdown, but then stifled the defending 5A state champions, 48-10.

“We played much better than I expected Friday night,” Kinnan said. “Plant is a good team – they have five major D-1 recruits on their team and they’ll be there in the playoffs.”

Too bad the game didn’t count toward the ‘Canes regular season standings – Florida begins its season with a “kickoff classic” game, the equivalent of a pre-season game. The games start counting for real this weekend – and Manatee faces the defending WPIAL AAAA champion Woodland Hills Wolverines in an 8 p.m. kickoff at the “Rally at the Wolvarena” Saturday.

The 2010 edition of the Manatee Hurricanes has the potential to be very, very good. They entered the season ranked #8 in the nation by the USA-Today and 19th by ESPN. The Hurricanes are coming off of a 13-win season and the school’s first appearance in the state finals since 1993 (also a state-runner up finish).

“I think our kids have really gelled together as a team,” Kinnan said. “We have a group of kids who really care about each other and have a real camaraderie amongst them.”

Leading the charge is lightning-quick running back Michael Blakely (career 1,930 rushing yards, 26 TD), who is coming off of a solid junior campaign of 1,323 yards and 16 TD. He has more than three dozen Division-1 football programs that have offered him a scholarship.

In addition to Blakely, Manatee returns WR Quenton Bundrage (40 rec., 721 yards, 10 TD); DT Quinton Pompey (100 tackles, 12 sacks); LB Chris Pompey (49 tackles, 6.5 sacks); LB Darius White (137 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 fumble recoveries); DB Clinton Heaven (81 tackles, 4 deflected passes); DL Marquise Dawsey (35 tackles, 4.5 sacks); and K Cody Lengel (46 KO, 16 touchbacks; 28 PATs, 3 FG, 37 total points).

“We have the ability to go a long way,” Kinnan said.

Kinnan lost career 4,000-yard passer Brion Carnes, but has a solid sophomore field general in Cord Sandberg.

In the Plant game, Sandberg threw for 133 yards and two touchdowns and added a 34-yard scoring run.

When Manatee played its spring football game, Kinnan said Sandberg was lights-out.

“He went 21-of-24 with five touchdown passes, and his three incompletions were all dropped passes,” Kinnan said.

Kinnan had the chance to take a look at Woodland Hills on film, and he was impressed with the turquoise and black, who boast a roster with 38 seniors, including blue-chip athletes Lafayette Pitts, Quinton Jefferson and Ejuan Price.

“I’m very impressed with them,” Kinnan said. “They are very athletic and have speed and size. They like to pound you and control the ball. They’ll be a good challenge for us.”

The Hurricanes’ opener is the nightcap and primetime game of a four games in one day event.

“We like the spotlight,” Kinnan said. “If you want to be a championship team, you have to come out and play at a championship level each and every week. Plus, the landscape of high school football has changed. To gain national recognition anymore, you have to play a team from out-of-state.

“We want our kids to represent us in this event in a class way, and we know they will,” Kinnan continued. “We’re taking the Manatee Hurricane tradition on the road and are putting it on display.”

That tradition includes a quartet of FHSAA state titles, numerous Division-1 football recruits and seven players who have won NCAA football titles and four with Super Bowl rings.

And even though Saturday’s forecast calls for immaculate conditions in the Pittsburgh area, be wary.

Manatee’s staunch defense could come down like rain…again.

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