BRADENTON -- Once again, it will be close. And once again, things will fall the way of the Manatee Hurricanes.
Manatee may not have a Mike Blakely or Quenton Bundrage on offense -- though junior Anthony Lauro is shaping into a top-tier playmaker -- but its defense is just as good, or better than last season.
That should be the difference tonight.
The Canes’ front four of Blake Keller, Derrick Calloway, Marquis Dawsey and Southeast transfer DeAngelo Dawes has totaled 10 sacks in three games and may be too much for Southeast’s offensive line to handle.
Manatee is big and fast, something the surging Seminoles haven’t encountered this season.
And the Canes’ linebackers, led by Hershel Caywood and Darius White, also won’t make life much easier for the Noles.
Manatee’s offensive line needs to play better than it did two weeks ago against New Jersey-based power Don Bosco Prep. If it does and gives Cord Sandberg plenty of time to throw, the Canes should be able to take advantage of a Southeast secondary that may be without safety Earvin Bradshaw.
It’s the 30th game of the series, and it will be close.
But Manatee’s speed and size, especially defensively, will keep the Hurricanes a step ahead of their biggest rivals.