Monday, December 3, 2012

Prep football: Looking back at Manatee-Aquinas matchups

photo by Grant Jefferies
Joe Kinnan and Cord Sandberg are a win away from another state final
 Here we go again - Manatee vs. Fort Lauderdale with a spot in a state title game on the line.
This is the fifth time since 2005 the Hurricanes and Raiders have met in a state semifinal, and the second time they have done it in Class 7A.
Here is a look at the previous meetings:

2005: Raiders 45, Hurricanes 17 - Joe Kinnan's return to the sideline was a triumphant one, as the Hurricanes won their first regional title in 11 years after not making the playoffs in 2004. But Manatee's season was stopped cold by the Raiders, who cruised at Hawkins Stadium. Quarterback Wesley Carroll threw for four Aquinas touchdowns while Manatee lost its quarterback, Ryan Rubino, to a second-quarter knee injury. Manatee drew to within 24-17 in the third quarter, but the Raiders, ranked seventh in the nation at the time, scored the final three touchdowns. Aquinas lost to Lakeland the following week in the 5A state final.

2006: Raiders 36, Hurricanes 29 2 OT - The rematch was in Fort Lauderdale this time, but it was all Manatee early. The Hurricanes' stout defense was able to tee off on a Raiders team playing without an injured Carroll, and Manatee carried a 15-0 lead into halftime while not allowing Aquinas a first down. But a pair of huge third-quarter plays helped turn the tide. First, Jeremiah Harden's 82-yard punt return for a touchdown sliced Manatee's lead to 15-7. Then Major Wright returned an interception 74 yards to Manatee's 12, and the Raiders later tied the game at 15. Manatee squandered a pair of leads, including a 29-22 advantage in the first overtime period, and the Raiders landed in the state final for a third straight year. Interestingly enough, Aquinas lost to Lakeland in two overtimes the following week in the 5A championship game.

2009: Hurricanes 28, Raiders 20: Manatee had re-established itself as a state power prior to this, winning a pair of regional titles and making the playoffs in three of four seasons since Kinnan returned to the sideline. But Dec. 11, 2009, was the night the Hurricanes' began their ultimate revival, beating a Raiders team that had won 37 straight games back-to-back 5A state titles and the 2008 prep national title, and owned the No.1 ranking in the nation. Manatee led 10-7 at the half and stretched the lead to 21-7 when Darian Evans returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter. The Raiders drew to within eight with 2:13 remaining, but Manatee senior Ace Sanders fell on the ensuing onside kick to clinch one of the biggest wins in team history. The Canes fell to Tampa Plant in the 5A final the following week, but the win put the them on the national radar. Manatee has been there ever since.

2010: Raiders 31, Hurricanes 7: With the previous year's upset fresh in their minds, the Raiders rolled in the rematch in Fort Lauderdale, routing a Manatee team fresh off its first undefeated season since 1990. Aquinas' defense limited Manatee to 11 first downs and 24 rushing yards while sacking quarterback Cord Sandberg three times. Aquinas defeated Tampa Plant the following week to clinch its sixth state title and third in four years. The Raiders were also named the prep national champion's by ESPN. Manatee, meanwhile, won the 7A state the following year and has not lost to a state school since.

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