Manatee Hurricanes football team starts season by mauling Miramar Patriots, 41-6

Hurricanes begin by pounding Patriotson national television

jlembo@bradenton.comSeptember 2, 2012 

BRADENTON -- The cameras. The banners.

The different-colored uniforms and knowing every move they made was being beamed into living rooms across the country.

There was a bevy of distractions facing Manatee during its season opener Sunday afternoon at Hawkins Stadium.

And the Hurricanes were a tad nervous.

"No doubt about it," said defensive lineman Derrick Calloway.

It took a half for those nerves to subside, and Manatee shook off a disjointed start to pound Miramar 41-6 in a game broadcast live on ESPN2.

The defending Class 7A state champion, Manatee (1-0) has won 13 straight dating back to last season and has not lost a regular-season game to a Florida school since 2009.

"We started calming down and not letting the cameras and stuff get in our face," said Calloway, who had one sack Sunday, "and started playing football."

Once they did, the Hurricanes had no trouble with Miramar, the runner-up in

Class 8A last season.

Manatee snapped a 6-6 tie less than four minutes into the second half when Cord Sandberg faked a handoff and a found an open Trevon Walters for a 19-yard touchdown.

A personal-foul penalty on Miramar was a key play on the drive. Manatee would have been facing a fourth-and-2 from its own 47 after a run by Walters, but the flag moved the ball 15 yards to Miramar's 38 and gave Manatee a fresh set of downs.

"That was borderline. They could've called it, they could have not," Sandberg said. "I'm glad they called it. It gave us some momentum, and scoring on that first drive of the second half was big."

Would Manatee have punted had the penalty not been called?

"I was really happy we didn't have to make that decision," Sandberg said. "The way things were going, we probably would have ended up punting there, so the fact that we were able to keep the drive going was big."

Three plays after Walters' score, Manatee defensive lineman Blake Keller blocked a punt, scooped it up and ran 15 yards for a touchdown, arming the Hurricanes, who were wearing Navy blue jerseys with white stars in accordance with the game benefiting the Wounded Warrior Project, with a 20-6 lead and engineering a rout that led to a running clock during the game's final five minutes.

It was a huge day for the UCF-bound Keller, whose first punt block set up Gregory Moss's game-tying field goal with 7:06 left in the second half. Keller also added 2 1/2 sacks.

"I saw them pointing at who they were blocking, and the guy outside of me was supposed to block me, and I don't know why they did that," Keller said. "I was able to run right by him and block both (punts)."

Defense carried the Canes during the first half, when the offense mustered a pair of field goals from Moss. Manatee missed a pair of opportunities early in the second half, when an open Brodrick Yancy dropped a pass at the 5 and Sandberg fumbled just as he was nearing the goal line.

Miramar recovered the ball in the end zone and took over at Manatee's 20. But Willie Smith nabbed a pair of interceptions before the break, including one that was tipped by defensive back Darian Dailey, and Manatee's offense began to hum after the break.

"We started going more north and south," Hurricanes coach Joe Kinnan said, "and that opened up a couple things in the passing game for us."

Sandberg threw for 210 yards, rushed for 46 and had a hand in three touchdowns. Walters totaled 162 yards of offense and scored twice, and Dentrell Muller added another pick for Manatee.

Manatee began the day ranked No. 1 in the nation by MaxPreps, second by USA Today and third by Rivals. The Hurricanes could climb or maintain those spots following Sunday's win.

But as well as Sunday went, the Canes know there is a lot more left to accomplish.

"We've got plenty of teams to play, and I just don't it to be one game like this," Calloway said. "I want all my games to be like this for my senior year. I want to go out with a bang."

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