BRADENTON -- ESPN is headed back to Hawkins Stadium.
This time, the network will broadcast a game that counts.
Manatee's regular season-opener with Miramar, scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 2, will be shown live on ESPN2 as part of the 10th annual GEICO ESPN High School Showcase.
"It gives tremendous exposure to our school and our community," said Hurricanes coach Joe Kinnan. "It's also on a day when there's not a lot going on in sports. The NFL hasn't started yet, most college games are on Saturday, and high school games will have been played on Friday."
What Kinnan is most excited about it, however, is the game's proceeds will benefit the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization that aids and assists injured troops.
"We're hoping we can pack the stadium," he said.
Manatee will wear special uniforms for the game, and both teams will meet for a banquet Saturday night at the Bradenton Country Club. The guest speaker will be Bob Delaney, a Lakewood Ranch resident who officiated games in the NBA and was a New Jersey State police officer who went undercover to infiltrate the mob.
Delaney spoke to Manatee's players the Wednesday before last year's state championship game as part of the team's character development series.
"When we told him what are plans were," Kinnan said of benefiting the Wounded Warrior Project, "he said he wanted to be a part of it if we decided to go forward.
"He does a lot with the Wounded Warrior Project."
ESPN last came to Bradenton in 2010 to broadcast Manatee's Kickoff Classic against Tampa Plant. That
game had some intrigue -- the two teams met eight months earlier in the Class 5A state final, and Manatee's Mike Blakely and Plant's James Wilder Jr. were among two of the most hotly recruited players in the nation.
But it didn't count in the standings.
This time, it does. And while Manatee and Miramar compete in different classifications and districts, a win will help the Hurricanes maintain their lofty preseason rankings.
They enter the season listed No. 1 by MaxPreps and No. 3 by both USA Today and Rivals a year after winning the Class 7A state title.
Miramar is unranked, though the Patriots did reach the Class 8A title game last year, where they lost to Tampa Plant.
As for the unique scheduling, Kinnan said he isn't too concerned with how the Canes will handle it, even though they have to head to Riverview the following Friday.
Manatee hosts Seminole Osceola on Friday in a Kickoff Classic.
"I just think we have a good game plan for that," he said. "And we have a couple of guys who are injured, so having a long week between games will give us some time to recover."
This marks the first time since 2010 Manatee won't play a game out of state. But getting to play live on national television is a good consolation prize, said quarterback Cord Sandberg.
"It's cool," he said. "It was nice traveling ... but the fact that ESPN is coming to us, it's awesome."