Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Undefeated and on the road?

(Image from city-data.com).

Why is Manatee, 12-0 and ranked first in the state in Class 5A, forced to travel for Friday's Region 3 championship game while Palm Bay Bayside, which has lost three times this season, gets to stay home?
No real reason. That's just the way it worked out.
Forget about the rankings and records - when it comes to deciding who goes where in the prep playoffs, those things don't mean anything.
OK, the records mean something in the first round, or quarterfinals, when a champion from one district hosts a runner-up from another.
But that is the last time a team controls its own travel log, which is why Manatee hosted St. Thomas Aquinas in last year's state semifinal even though Aquinas had won 37 straight games and consecutive state titles.
This year, in Class 5A, the Florida High School Athletic Association ruled before the season started that the school on the bottom of the bracket is the host school in the regional semifinals, or second round, with the exception being if a runner-up advances and plays a district champion.
In that case, the district champ hosts, regardless of the which end of the bracket each team resides.
Still with me?
The bottom-of-the-bracket rule holds true in the regional final. And as you can see here, Manatee sits on the top of the bracket.
Bayside sits on the bottom.
(Southeast has been handed the same fate, and will play for the Class 3A-Region 3 championship Friday at South Fort Myers).
Now, if you look at the rest of the Class 5A bracket, you will notice Tampa Plant is hosting Countryside, even though Plant is on top and both teams won their district.
Why? Well, it's another exception to the earlier rule - if the school on the bottom was home during the first two rounds, and the school on top traveled for either of the first two rounds, then the team on top gets to host.
Everybody got that?
Finally, why is Manatee traveling for a second year in a row? Last year, if you remember, the Hurricanes were the runner-up out of District 10 and Palm Bay was a district champ.
Had both teams been champions, last year's regional final would have been in Bradenton.
And oh, before you ask, Friday's winner is on the road for next week's state semifinal - Regions 2 and 4 play hosts in Classes 5A, 3A, 1A and 1B.
Again, that's just the way it worked out.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Varsity Blues vs. All The Right Moves

(Images from moviepostershop.com)

It may not be one of the world's greatest debates, but it's still fun to compare 1983's All The Right Moves and 1999's Varsity Blues.
Both tackle the world of high school football - the former takes place in a Pennsylvania steel town, the latter in rural Texas - and neither are based on a Pulitzer Prize winning novel, unlike 2004's Friday Night Lights.
So which is better? Well, let's take a gander.
(And before you question my credentials as a movie critic, I own both.)

The Hero - Both films earn kudos in this category. VB's Jon Moxon (James Van Der Beek) and ATRM's Stefan Djordjevic (Tom Cruise, back when he was, you know, normal) are unconventional football leads. Moxon is a back-up QB who reads Slaughterhouse-Five on the sideline and has no plans of playing football at Brown University, which has given our lad an academic scholarship. Djordjevic is a undersized cornerback - how many movies focus on the defensive backs? - who hopes to play ball in college while studying engineering. Neither of these guys wants to play in the NFL (Djordevic even laughs at a college coach who broaches the topic) which is refreshing, and neither date the captain of the cheerleading team.
(Moxon even turns her in a down in a classic scene not fit for a family-friend blog such as Prep Rally.)
Edge: All The Right Moves. You have to love a movie whose hero mans the defensive side of the ball.

The Coach - Other than his memorable cameo on Seinfeld (the scene of him biting Kramer's arm is one for the time capsule), Jon Voight owes the second wave of his career to his turn as Bud Kilmer, VB's monstrous football coach. But that's the problem - Kilmer is TOO monstrous. He rarely smiles, forces his players to play through life-threatening injuries and looks the other way when his star wide receiver drunkenly steals a police car. Sorry, but this wouldn't fly in the politically-correct 1990s, and even if it did, his players would have rebelled years ago. This was the 90s, folks, when your kids started to get some edge, (Thanks, Pearl Jam.), and would only take so much Kilmer's barking. On the flip side, Craig T. Nelson - before he landed another coaching gig - is believable as Nickerson, leader of ATRM's Ampipe Bulldogs. He's a stern piledriver, but he also has a wife and family. He wants to get out of town as much as his players do, giving him and the teenagers sort of a perverse bond. Nickerson becomes the heavy as the film develops, but a heavy with good reason.
Edge: All The Right Moves. Voight has a lot of fun chomping on the scenery, but Nelson wouldn't look out of place standing on a sideline in Anytown, U.S.A.

The Big Game - This is where ATRM takes a huge lead. Not only is the game entertaining to watch, but it reeks of realism. It doesn't hurt that Cruise played ball in high school and looks very belivable returning a pick six. But the best part is it happens in the OPENING THIRD of the movie! Yes, a sports movie that doesn't lead into The Big Game. Instead, it gets The Big Game out of the way, and deals with the aftermath.
(And like I said, the game is a keeper, especially its wrenching ending.)
And this is where VB becomes like every other jock flick - it comes down to the final play of the season, and we know who is going to win and how they are going to win, and just how they are going to celebrate. That said, it speaks volumes about VB that even though we know where it's going, we hang on for the ride anyway. And it is a lot of fun getting there.
Edge: ATRM. Watch the game and tell me you don't feel as if you can hear the band and smell the burgers.

The Look - ATRM takes place in Ampipe, a fictional steel town where the sun never shines and every pracice is conducted amidst a cold rain. You can't blame any of the players and coaches for wanting to escape. Parties take place in modest row homes and the locals hang out in a smokey watering hole replete with pool tables. It's gritty and it's real.
VB is the brainchild of MTV Films, and it looks like it. The cast is full of pretty people, the soundtrack features 90s acts such as Fastball and Collective Soul, and the whole thing has a slickness to it. That said, it gets a lot right, from the dads who spend their Saturday mornings watching practice to the former football players who can't stop reliving their glory days of yore.
Edge A push. ATRM looks more authentic, but VB looks like it is supposed to look.

Well, you know where I stand - it's All The Right Moves in a landslide. Both movies, however, are top-notch popcorn entertainment. And take it from someone who has spent over decade covering high school football in three different states - both films get it right, which is what makes them so fun to watch.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Next up: Region 3 finals

Manatee and Southeast will be playing for regional titles next week.
The Hurricanes defeated Venice 41-28 in a Class 5A-Region 3 semifinal and the Seminoles beat Winter Haven 21-20 in double overtime in a Class 3A-Region 3 semifinal Friday, sending both on the road next week.
In a rematch of last year's Region 3 championship game, Manatee (12-0) heads to Palm Bay to face Bayside (9-3).
The Seminoles (10-2) plays South Fort Myers (12-0) for the Region 3 title.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Winter sports worth watching

(Logo by snipsly.com)

Football is still the talk of the town with two of Bradenton's most storied programs, Manatee and Southeast, hosting regional semifinals Friday night.
But winter sports are up and running. Here's a sampling of some interesting action coming our way:

Dec. 2 - It's a district soccer doubleheader at Manatee, where the boys host Naples Gulf Coast at 5:30 and the girls teams meet at 7:30. Both sets of Hurricanes have been solid - the boys entered Day 2 of the Sarasota Thankgsiving Invitaional with a 5-0 record, while the girls are 5-0-2 under new coach George Ameras. But this double dip marks the district opener for both teams, and that's when the games begin to count.

Dec. 7 - Palmetto lost a large chunk of the group that helped the Tigers to four straight regional finals and back-to-back appearances in the state final four. At 8 p.m. tonight, the Tigers try to maintain their hold as the area's steadiest boys soccer program when they host district foe Braden River in a district match that could have a say in who plays where come the postseason.

Dec. 10 - Saint Stephen's heads to Out-of-Door Academy for a boys soccer game - the rivals' first meeting since the Thunder won last year's Class 2A-District 10 title at the Falcons' expense. It was the Thunder's first district championship.

That it's for now - just a little sampling to whet your appetite. Basketball fans and wrestling fans, fear not - we will get to you.

Just keep checking out Prep Rally.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Canes' Pompey out for the year

(Photo by scout.com)

Quinton Pompey, a defensive lineman and one of the leaders of Manatee's football team, is out for the season after undergoing knee surgery Monday to repair a torn meniscus.
Pompey suffered the injury during the first quarter of last week's Class 5A-Region 3 quarterfinal against St. Petersburg Northeast.
Pompey's teammate, close friend and fellow lineman, Drakkar Wilson, endured the same injury Friday and also had surgery done Monday.
"It's about his future now," said Steve Gulash, Manatee's defensive line coach said of Pompey.
Dr. Daniel Lamar, an orthopedic surgeon who also works with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and is a Manatee alum, peformed the sugery. He told Gulash that instead of removing Pompey's meniscus, he could repair it, allowing Pompey to make a full recovery.
That means the Hurricanes (11-0) will be without Pompey for the remainder of the postseason, beginning with Friday's Region 3 semifinal against Venice. Pompey finishes the year with 62 tackles and 11 sacks.
Wilson may be able to return in two weeks, Gulash said.
"That's a matter of 100 percent, because they both have futures," he said. "We have capable kids that have worked just as hard ready to step in."

FHSAA's board makes two big changes

The Florida High School Athletic Association's board of directors approved the creation of a rural classification and the addition of another classification for select team sports during Monday's meeting in Gainesville.
A rural classification has been designated for most team sports, and will be called 1A rural and 1A urban for football and rural for other sanctioned sports.
In order for a school to be declared 1A rural for football and rural for other sports, enrollment will be between 44 and 600 students.
Schools declared 1A urban will have between 47 and 280 students, and the FHSAA will unveil tentative districts in December.
Six-class sports baseball, basketball, softball and girls volleyball will now feature a Class 7A classification for schools with enrollment of 2,260 or more students.
Girls and boys soccer, which does not feature a Class 1A classification, added Class 7A as its sixth classification.
“When the FHSAA originally went up to six classifications in team sports in 1999, we had 517 member schools, with 480 of those playing team sports. Now that we have 670 member schools and 650 of those in team sports, the number of teams in individual districts is too large,” Roger Dearing, the FHSAA's executive director, said in a release on the association's website.

Listed below are classifications, broken down by population:

Football Classes
1A Rural (36 schools) 44-600
1A Urban (48 schools) 47-280
2B (42 schools) 281-690
2A (42 schools) 691-1,099
3A (84 schools) 1,100-1,580
4A (84 schools) 1,581-1,925
5A (82 schools) 1,926-2,300
6A (81 schools) 2,301+

All others
7A 2,260+
6A 1,892-2,259
5A 1,599-1,891
4A 1,217-1,598
3A 525-1,216
2A 162-524 (soccer begins here)
1A 18-161
Rural 44-600

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Surgery Monday for Canes' Wilson and Pompey

Manatee defensive linemen Drakkar Wilson and Quinton Pompey each have a meniscus tear in a knee and will undergo surgery Monday, said Hurricanes defensive line coach Steve Gulash.
Both are expected to miss two weeks, including Friday's regional semifinal against Venice.
Wilson and Pompey, who underwent MRIs Saturday, went down on separate plays during the first quarter of Friday's Class 5A-Region 3 quarterfinal against St. Petersburg Northeast.
Pompey and Wilson teamed for over 20 sacks during the regular season and have drawn interest for a number of Division I schools.
Friday, Manatee filled the voids with a rotation of linemen that included Derrick Calloway and James Robinson. Blake Keller and Kelvin Carter are also options, Gulash said.
"All my kids are able to play," Gulash said, "and be a factor."
Manatee (11-0) host the Indians (8-3) 7:30 p.m. Friday, with the winner advancing to to the Region 3 final against either Lake Worth Community School or Palm Bay Bayside.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Football: Regional semifinal pairings

...And then there were two.
Manatee and Southeast picked up wins Friday, with the Hurricanes burying St. Petersburg Northeast 35-13 in a 5A-Region 3 quarterfinal, and the Seminoles scoring a dramatic 21-20 win over Lake Wales in a 3A-Region 3 quarterfinal.
So, here are the semifinal matchups:
5A-Region 3: Venice (8-3) at Manatee (11-0), 7:30 p.m.
3A-Region 3: Winter Haven (10-1) at Southeast (9-2), 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Beef O'Brady's show heads to Bradenton

(Logo from funandfrugal.com)

The Beef O'Brady's Scoreboard Show is broadcasting live at the 5942 34th St. West location in Bradenton following Friday's Class 3A-Region 3 game between host Southeast and Lake Wales.
The show runs from 10 p.m. to midnight, and will feature scores from all of the state's playoff games.
The show can be heard on on WSRQ 1220-AM and 106.9 FM, and WZZS 106.9 FM in Zolfo Springs and WWBA-820 AM in Tampa/St. Petersburg.

Manatee County: Land of dual-meet tournaments

(Logo from FHSAA.org)

Five of the six public schools will host dual-meet tournaments this season, beginning with Bayshore's Dimond Duals on Saturday.
Braden River and Southeast join the Bruins, along with Booker,Venice, Riverview and Englewood Lemon Bay. Wrestling begins at 9 a.m.
Manatee's Coach Kelly Memorial Hurricane Team Challenge, which typically takes place on a Saturday, has been slated for 4 p.m. Friday, Jan. 7.
Riverview, Palm Harbor, Miami Sunset, Largo, Lakeland, Jupiter, Gateway, Durant, Bloomingdale and Citrus are scheduled to come to Bradenton.
The following day, Jan. 8, offers a pair of tournaments. The Southeast Duals, which start at 9 a.m., includes Bayshore, Braden River, Venice, Celebration, Seminole Osceola and Seminole.
And Lakewood Ranch offers the Mustang Duals, beginning at 8. Clearwater, Rockledge, East Lake and Sunlake are currently on the docket.
Palmetto hosts the Tiger Duals on Saturday, Jan. 15 at 9 a.m. Bayshore, Braden River and Southeast are expected to attend, along with Tampa Riverview, Lennard, Cape Coral Ida Baker, Brooksville Hernando, Tampa Jesuit and Booker.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Coach Sandberg credits Manatee's depth

(Photo taken by pagemoorephoto.com)

Chuck Sandberg calls it The Next Guy.
"That means when you go in next," said Sandberg, who coaches Manatee's receivers, "we don't really skip a beat that much."
If The Next Guy was a stat, the Hurricanes may be leading the entire state.
How else can you explain the 10-0 record and No.1 ranking in Class 5A Manatee takes into Friday's Region 3 quarterfinal against St. Petersburg Northeast?
The team's talented quartet of skill players - Mike Blakely, Quenton Bundrage, Cord Sandberg and Anthony Lauro - haven't been on the field together since the Sept. 17 game against Southeast, with Blakely, Bundrage and Lauro shelved by an assortment of injuries.
Chuck Sandberg, now in his 25th year coaching at Manatee, puts some of the credit on the team's deep pool of wide receivers, namely Terry Evans, Ryan Taylor, Todd Johnson and Brandon Kull (pictured above).
"All those guys, I can't tell them enough how much I love them, how much they've done great for us," Chuck said. "I can't go into words."
Lauro returned last week against Booker, but hadn't played since Week 3 against Southeast. Blakely, a running back headed to Florida next year, hurt his ankle two weeks later against Sarasota and didn't play in Manatee's final two games of the reguar season.
Bundrage, who carried more than his share of the slack with Blakely out, hurt his knee early in the game against North Port on Nov. 5 and didn't play last week.
Cue the bench. Kull's 24 catches are second on the team behind Bundrage (52), and he has been Cord's top option on the shovel pass.
Evans has 22 catches, Taylor has 14 and Johnson has blocked well. He also has a pair of catches, including one for a touchdown.
The four have teamed for 62 receptions and four touchdowns.
"The number of reps they've got in the last seven games, they've gotten better," Chuck Sandberg said. "When you have game experience, there's no substitute for that. And they've gotten better."
Make no mistake - Chuck Sandberg is happy to have the exciting Lauro back in the fold.
He just has a spot in his heart for The Next Guy. And rightfully so.
"They've done a great, great job. And we can win with those guys," Chuck Sandberg said.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Canes, Noles make final AP Poll

Manatee and Southeast were the area's lone district football champions this fall. So it's fitting the rivals ended the regular season ranked in the top of their respective classifications by The Associated Press.
The Hurricanes (10-0) held on to the top spot in Class 5A, totaling 136 points to beat out runner-up Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquians (129).
Manatee had 10 first-place votes while the Raiders had four.
The Canes tied Aquinas for first two weeks ago and took over sole possession last week. They host St. Petersburg Northeast in a Region 3 quarterfinal Friday.
The Seminoles (8-2) finally cracked the top 10 after closing the season on a six-game winning streak. Southeast is tied for 10th in Class 3A with Miami Belen Jesuit.
Lake Wales, which is ranked ninth, visits John Kiker Memorial Stadium on Friday for a Region 3 opener.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The 1st Annual Lemmy Awards

Welcome friends, foes and everyone else to the 1st Annual Lemmy Awards here on Prep Rally!
Before we go forward, please keep these points in mind:
- These will have no bearing on The Herald's All-Area Football Team, which will be unveiled after the season is over. That team, as well as the Player of the Year, is decided by Herald staffers with input from the area's 10 coaches.
The Lemmy Awards are one man's opinion, with that man being me.
- These are just for fun. No trophies, plaques or jackets - just something to chew on before the playoffs begin Friday.
- Agree? Disagree? Shoot me an email at jlembo@bradenton.com.
And now, the awards...

Most Valuable Player - Cord Sandberg, Manatee.The Hurricanes are 10-0 for the first time in 20 years and have usurped Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas at No. 1 in the Class 5A state rankings. And they have accomplished that even though superstar Mike Blakely has missed most of the second half of the season with ankle injuries.
A big reason is Sandberg, who has thrown for 2,088 yards and has rushed for 488. Though he is just a sophomore, Sandberg has been asked to do more than just make decisions - the Hurricanes have put many games in his hands, such as the 24-7 win over Venice that clinched Manatee's first district title since 2006.
Sandberg and the rest of the Canes will be tested during the playoffs, and the team's defense has been as good as advertised this fall. But it's hard to imagine Manatee being this successful without the precocious Sandberg pulling the trigger.
HONORABLE MENTION: Brian Poole, Southeast; Taryn Laws, Lakewoood Ranch; Quenton Bundrage, Manatee.

Coach of the Year - Dave Marino, Palmetto (above); Don Purvis, Braden River. I'm not usually a fan of splitting awards, but Marino and Purvis have done solid jobs during their Manatee County head-coaching debuts.
Marino has led the Tigers through a rough start and a tidal wave of injuries right into the Class 4A-Region 3 playoffs. And by beating Purvis' Pirates last week, Palmetto has assured itself of a winning season - a fine accomplishment for a team that was 2-4.
Purvis, who was Raymond Woodie's assistant at Bayshore in 2003, reminded his team after an ugly 0-3 start that only district games mattered. The Pirates listened, and despite the absence of a passing game and a defense gutted by graduation, clinched their third straight playoff berth.
HONORABLE MENTION: Shawn Trent, Lakewood Ranch; Joe Kinnan, Manatee; Paul Maechtle, Southeast.

Game of the Year - Palmetto at Lakewood Ranch, Nov. 2 Southeast and Manatee added another classic to a rivalry full of them, but the Tigers-Mustangs tilt in east Manatee County was a win-or-stay-home game for the final playoff spot in Class 4A-District 11.
It featured a little bit of everything - a deflection that turned into a touchdown; the surprise return of Mustangs QB Reggie Lindsey; the arrival of Palmetto RB De'Quan Reddick; the emergence of Palmetto's defense, finally healthy; and the Tigers scoring a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns, compliments of Reddick, and recording a 28-14 win, earning a trip to Cape Coral for a regional quarterfinal.
HONORABLE MENTION: Manatee at Southeast, Sept. 17.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ranch girls ranked first in the state

Lakewood Ranch's girls cross country heads into Friday's Class 3A-Region 3 meet ranked first in the state in Class 3A by flrunners.com.
Tallahassee Chiles, which beat the Mustangs in last year's state meet, is ranked second.
Today's Class 3A regional girls meet is scheduled for 9:50 a.m. Friday at Estero Community Park.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Manatee's Blakely an All-America

Manatee running back Mike Blakely has been selected for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, and will be honored when the bowl's selection tour stops by Hawkins Stadium prior to Friday night's game.
Blakely will be officially given his jersey at 7:15 p.m., 15 minutes before the Canes host Booker in their regular-season finale.
Blakely is one of 90 players picked for the bowl, which will air live on NBC at noon Saturday, Jan. 8 from the Alamodome.
Blakely verbally committed to Florida late last month. Despite being slowed this season by injuries to both ankles, Blakely is sixth in the area in rushing (649 yards) and third in scoring (15 touchdowns, 90 points).
He sat out last week's game against North Port and is not expected to play Friday against the Tornadoes.
The Hurricanes host St. Petersburg Northeast in a Class 5A-Region 3 quarterfinal Nov. 19.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Volleyball - Regional semifinal pairings

Four area teams are in action during Tuesday's regional volleyball semifinals, with matches scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.
Winners head to Saturday's regional finals.
Here are the semifinal matchups:

Class 4A-Region 3
Lutz Steinbrenner at Braden River
Class 3A-Region 3
Southeast at Fort Myers Bishop Verot
Class 2A-Region 3
Saint Stephen's at Fort Myers Evangelical Christian
Class 1A-Region 2
Seffner Christian at Bradenton Christian

Football playoff pairings

The road to Orlando begins in two weeks when the regional football playoffs begin.
Here is a look at the area matchups.

Class 5A-Region 3
St. Petersburg Northeast at Manatee
Class 4A-Region 3
Palmetto at Cape Coral
Class 3A-Region 3
Lake Wales at Southeast
Braden River at Winter Haven
Class 1B-Region 3
Out-of-Door Academy at Lakeland Victory Christian

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Manatee's Bundrage has been huge

Manatee has a wealth of talent on both sides of the ball, befitting for a team ranked first in the state in Class 5A - along with Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquians - and second in the nation by ESPN Rise.
Few players have been as key as senior Quenton Bundrage. Ranked second in the area in receptions (51), Bundrage has used his legs and hands to help compensate for the loss of star running back Mike Blakely, who has been hampered the past four games with ankle injuries.
In Friday's win over Venice, which clinced the District 10 title for Manatee, Bundrage carried the ball twice for 13 yards, and garnered eight catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns.
"We know that Mike is a big part of our offense," Bundrage said. "A lot of guys - not just me - we have to step up and fill in spots and just keep playing hard."
Bundrage's one-handed touchdown grab in the final minute of the first half last week all but sealed the game for the Canes, though his contributions have stretched far beyond his play against the Indians.
He has eight touchdowns in the last five games, piling up 679 yards of offense along the way.
Consequently, Manatee takes an 8-0 record into Friday's home game with North Port.
"He's had to pick it," said coach Joe Kinnan.
Bundrage has. And the Hurricanes couldn't be happier.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Garofalo happy for Seminoles

Southeast's volleyball team won its first district championship last week. And few are happier for the Seminoles than their former coach.
Carmine Garofalo won 66 games in five years at Southeast prior to stepping down after the 2008 season. Now the head coach at State College of Florida, Garofalo credits the program he used to call his own.
"They have obviously worked hard, and for them to actually win the first district championship, it was very exciting and rewarding," he said. "It's a terrific school, and they've done a great job there. The athletes are committed and they are working hard."
Garofalo is in his first year running the Manatees, and has made it his priority to lure local talent to the community college. This year's roster, for example, boasts area prep stars such as Sarah Geraldson (Bradenton Christian) and Natalie Gaudreau (Venice).
"I would definitely love to see some of those athletes here," Garofalo said. "They're terrific - not only athletes, but human beings, that would fit well with our philosophy."
The Seminoles hosts LaBelle on 7 p.m. Wednesday in a Class 3A-Region 3 quarterfinal.
Meanwhile, Garofalo has made an immediate splash with the Manatees, who won the Suncoast Conference title this year and head to Winter Haven on Thursday for the first round of the FCCAA Region 8 State Tournament.
SCF faces St. Petersburg College on 10 a.m. in the first round.
"We're kind of in the same boat at the same time," Garofalo said, referring to the Seminoles and Manatees. "It's kind of interesting."

Monday, November 1, 2010

Canes tie Aquinas in state poll

Guess it isn't always lonely at the top.
Manatee has tied Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquians at No. 1 in Class 5A in The Associated Press' state football poll.
Each team received six first-place votes and 114 points.
The Hurricanes, 8-0, won their first district title in four years Friday with a 24-7 win at Venice. They finish the regular season with home games against North Port and Booker, and will host the runner up from District 9 in a Region 3 quarterfinal Nov. 19.
It's the first time since 2006 that the Canes open the playoffs at home.
No other area teams cracked the state poll, though Southeast received three votes in the Class 3A rankings.

Meyer: Dowling off UF football team

Florida coach Urban Meyer announced during Monday's press conference that Southeast alum Jonathan Dowling is no longer with the team for a violation of team rules.
One of the most hotly-recruited players in high school, Dowling is a freshman safety at Florida. He broke the program record for interceptions (15) at Southeast during his junior season.