VENICE -- It was one of those games where you look up at the scoreboard and feel thankful for your offense.
And then you vow to fix the rest.
Manatee virtually locked up another district championship with a 56-27 victory over host Venice on Friday thanks to an offense that couldn't be stopped and quarterback Cord Sandberg, who would not be denied.
Sandberg ran for two touchdowns, threw for three more and completed 13 of 14 passes for 249 yards to spark the Hurricanes in a battle of the last two remaining teams that were unbeaten in Class 7A-District 10. If Manatee defeats Sarasota in two weeks, it wins the district title.
Sandberg got some nice help from Trevon Walters, who rushed for 146 yards on only 15 carries and scored two touchdowns. Marquel Hines caught four passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns.
"Cord Sandberg is the best football player I've ever faced as a coach. I am just happy he is finally graduating. I am going to be at his graduation giving him a gift," Venice head coach John Peacock said. "We can't block those guys up front. They may have come out a little flat at the
beginning, and that's why we were able to score some points, but hats off to them."
Though the offense put up the kind of numbers that will virtually win every game, the defense had its struggles, gave up quite a few big plays and let Venice (6-2, 1-1) hang around longer then the Canes hoped they would.
Manatee (7-0, 2-0) gave up some huge chunks of yardage on defense and had problems all night with Venice quarterback Kale Youtzy, who burned them for 158 yards rushing on 19 carries and scored three touchdowns.
Manatee defensive coordinator Jim Phelan and defensive line coach Steve Gulash said the breakdowns were problems that can be corrected.
"It's minor flaws, even though it seems tragic. Everyone is in a panic," Gulash said. "It is things that experience will fix and constant correction. Upfront they made some mistakes, but not as bad as some might think. Everything up the middle and society says you (the front four) are not playing well. It's a work in progress with some young guys (behind the line), and we are going to fix it."
Manatee's offense made things easier by scoring quickly on its first three possessions of the game. Walters scored from 31 yards out on the Canes' second offensive play of the game.
After a fumbled snap on a Venice punt attempt, Broderick Yancy scored on a 28-yard run.
Sandberg ran it from the 6 for a 21-7 first-quarter lead, and Walters six-yard run gave Manatee a 28-13 halftime lead.
Manatee seemed on its way to a rout when Sandberg connected with JaJuan Pollock for a 33-yard scoring strike to give the Canes a 35-13 lead to open the second half.
But Venice wouldn't quit, and Youtzy couldn't be stopped. He ran for 52 yards, and two plays later Isaac Whitney broke free for a 27-yard touchdown.
Youtzy added a 21-yard TD run in the final 24 seconds of the third quarter to cut Manatee's lead to 42-27, but that was as close as the Indians could get. In the final period, Sandberg scored on a one-yard run and tossed a 14-yard strike to Hines, who caught a 61-yarder in the third period.
"They are a good football team. They play hard, and they don't give up," Manatee head coach Joe Kinnan said. "We had to answer all their scores, and we gave them an onside kick, and then we fair catch a kickoff and drop that. And we didn't do a good job of defending their run.
"We are a very talented offensive team and have some great defensive players who are capable of putting it together. We've got to go back and look at the video and see where our breakdowns were regarding gap control. Their quarterback is elusive and fast and did some great things. But as long as we score 56 points, we will be all right."