With his long-awaited college decision now made public, Manatee running back Mike Blakely has turned his focus to the classroom and the Hurricanes' chase of another trip to the Class 5A state final.
A pair of ankle injuries have limited him to 20 carries over the past three weeks, though he hopes he can be ready when Manatee heads to Venice on Friday for a game that will decide the Class 5A-District 10 title.
Blakely, who rolled an ankle three weeks ago against Sarasota and sprained his other ankle last week against Riverview, said he walked through practice Monday.
"It should be all right," he said. "It should be good to go come Friday."
With a win, Manatee (7-0, 2-0) not only wins the district, but assures itself of a first-round home game. Consequently, the hope is that Blakely can make it through the Venice game and then take it easy while Manatee plays out the rest of the regular season with two games against North Port and Booker, neither of which will have any bearing on the Hurricanes' postseason.
"He's got to be ready to go and play the best he can, because if we can win the game...we can let him heal up whatever he needs to heal up," said coach Joe Kinnan. "Hopefully, he can be close to 100 percent by Friday."
Manatee has been able to thrive without a healthy Blakely thanks in part to the play of quarterback Cord Sandberg and wide receiver Quenton Bundrage, as well as a defense that limited the Rams to a pair of field goals last week at the Ram Bowl.
"The last two games, he's actually played really sparingly. We've got some other people and we've learned to adapt," Kinnan said. "We've got a couple of little wrinkles that we haven't shown yet, so we've got some other things that we can do. But we're certainly a much better football team when he's at full speed."