Showing no signs of slowing down, host Manatee High capped a perfect regular season on Friday night with a 49-6 non-district victory over Lakewood Ranch at Joe Kinnan Field at Hawkins Stadium.
The nation’s top-ranked high school football team scored 42 of its points in the game’s first 13 minutes and 50 seconds. Junior running back Trevon Walters ran for three touchdowns during the spurt, which saw Manatee collect at least 11 yards on 14 of 16 offensive plays.
“Offense, defense and special teams,” said senior quarterback Cord Sandberg, who has verbally committed to play at Mississippi State next fall. “I guess we didn’t score a defensive touchdown, but the defense played lights out (in the first half). On offense, we have everything moving forward. Execution was awesome from the first play. Honestly, (the first quarter) was one of the best quarters I’ve ever been a part of.”
Manatee needed just 32 seconds to get on the scoreboard as Walters followed up a 46-yard run by Sandberg on the game’s first play with a 7-yard scoring run. Manatee capped its second and third drives with a 20-yard touchdown pass from Sandberg to JaJuan Pollock and a 22-yard scoring reverse by Marquel Hines, respectively.
Walters’ final two touchdown runs, which totaled 90 yards, sandwiched Darryl Brookins’ 67-yard punt return for a touchdown. The 5-foot-10, 183-pound Walters saw his night end with five carries for 112 yards.
“I’ve played with three different running backs in my three years as a starter,” Sandberg said. “(Current Auburn running back) Mike (Blakely) was obviously an awesome back. (Western Kentucky freshman) Leon (Allen) was more of a bruiser guy last year. Trevon is the type that can outrun you, but he’s also going to lower the shoulder and make things happen.”
Sandberg’s final play of the night was a 25-yard pass to Pollock. On the next play, Walters scored from 43 yards to make it 42-0 with 10:10 left in the second quarter.
Sandberg finished the game with 141 yards on 9-of-10 passing and the lone carry of 46 yards as Manatee won its 22nd consecutive game. The Hurricanes will begin defense of the Class 7A state championship next Friday against visiting St. Petersburg Northeast.
“I think winning breeds winning,” Manatee head coach Joe Kinnan said. “It becomes a habit. And it’s a good habit to have. The kids that play for us have expectations. To win is one of those expectations.”
Lakewood Ranch (5-5) drove inside the Manatee 10 and took nearly 11 minutes off the clock on the first possession of the second half. However, the drive came to an end when Manatee’s Travon Rumph intercepted Chad Rex at the Hurricanes’ 5.
Following an 8-yard scoring pass from sophomore Josh Meyer to Pollock, the Mustangs orchestrated another long drive. The drive produced a 1-yard touchdown run by freshman A’shawn Angel with 1:55 left to play.
Angel collected a team-high 55 yards on nine carries. Chris Pearcey carried the ball a game-high 12 times for 45 yards and Wyatt McLeod had 41 yards on nine carries.
“We knew that they were good,” Lakewood Ranch head coach Shawn Trent said. “You don’t want to start five freshmen against Manatee. I can promise you that. Their biggest strength is their D-line, and we had three freshmen start on the offensive line. Not exactly a recipe for success going into it.”
Lakewood Ranch was the sixth team to be held to 13 points or fewer against the Hurricanes this season. Since making its last regular-season road trip for a 56-27 district victory at Venice on Oct. 19, Manatee has beaten its last three opponents by a combined margin of 162-15.
“You just keep plugging away because that’s all you can do,” Trent said. “I’m proud of our kids. They have always played hard and never quit. I didn’t expect anything different (on Friday night).”