Friday, December 16, 2011

Prep football: 5 storylines for tonight's Manatee-First Coast 7A final

(photo by Paul Videla)

Here are five things to watch for during tonight's Class 7A state final between Manatee and Jacksonville First Coast.

1. How DeAndre Johnson will handle the pressure: First Coast's freshman quarterback sure hasn't played like a freshman, throwing for 2,706 yards and 24 touchdowns in leading the Buccaneers to their first title game. Chances are, however, he hasn't seen a defensive line like Manatee's, which is lead by Marquis Dawsey (above) and Blake Keller, who have teamed for 24 sacks. It'll be interesting to see how he reacts after those first few hits.

2. The trenches: First Coast coach Marty Lee said whomever wins the battle in the trenches wins this football game, and he's right. The battle between Manatee's defensive line and a First Coast offensive line anchored by Sheldon Gordon (315 pounds) and Nathan Waters (325) will decide whether Johnson has time to hook up with his deep pool of receivers, or whether he spends the night throwing on the run.

3. Manatee's offense: Manatee was a points machine during the regular season, scoring at least 21 in nine of 10 games. But after racking up 89 in the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Canes were limited to 13 points against Fort Pierce Central and 19 against Palm Beach Dwyer. And 13 of those were scored by the defense. Is that a credit to those two defenses, or a sign that Manatee's O is in a bit of a slump? We'll find out tonight.

4. Special teams: Manatee kicker Nick Tankersley has missed three field goals over the last two games after missing none during the previous 11. When the senior is on, he's on (see his program record 53-yarder against Sarasota this season), and that means more points for Manatee's stellar defense to work with. Tankersley and the rest of Manatee's kickers spent Tuesday at Dad's Stadium at Tampa Plant, which has a similar artificial surface to the Citrus Bowl. Tonight's game should be close, which means things could come down to Tankersley and his foot.

5. The experience factor: Manatee got off to a slow start during the 2009 Class 5A state final because the Hurricanes were a little awe-struck by the enormity of the Florida Citrus Bowl. Their opponents that night, the Plant Panthers, had been there the year before and were used to the surroundings. Things are reversed this season - Manatee has been there, First Coast has not. That could play a role, especially in the early part of the game, before the jitters have wore off.

No comments:

Post a Comment