BRADENTON -- Time will tell if Manatee is indeed the best team in Class 7A.
Or the best team in the country.
Right now, there isn't any doubt.
The Hurricanes flattened Palmetto, 62-0, Friday night at Hawkins Stadium in a battle of undefeated teams who entered the week ranked No. 1 in their respective classifications.
It was never close.
The Hurricanes (8-0) totaled 507 yards of offense and gave up 83. They let Palmetto (7-1) cross midfield twice during the first half, including once on a penalty.
Manatee hasn't lost to a county team since 2006 and ran its regular-season winning streak over state schools to 27.
"We thought they would be competitive. They weren't even competitive," said Manatee coach Joe Kinnan, who said his team was upset by some of what was being said on the other side of the Manatee River. "We know what we've got. We express what kind of football team we are on the football field, not in the newspaper. We felt we had been disrespected, so our kids came to play, which we've done every game this year."
With a steady wind blowing through Hawkins Stadium, Manatee kept its offense grounded and found plenty of success. Quarterback Cord Sandberg attempted just five passes, but ran 12 times for 89 yards and scored on a pair of eight-yard touchdown runs during Manatee's 27-point second quarter.
Manatee ran for 404 yards, fueled in part by Trevon Walters (10 carries, 155 yards) and Brodrick Yancy (77 yards, three touchdowns).
"The conditions were really
windy and swirly," Kinnan said. "That was a little bit of a factor. But again, my philosophy is if you can't stop the run, we ain't throwing it."
After allowing 47 points the past two weeks, Manatee's defense was its stout self, blanking a Tigers team averaging over 36 points and 366 yards per game.
"We had to pick it up the whole week, and they actually fueled us by texting us the whole week," said Manatee defensive lineman Derrick Calloway. "What really woke me up was people saying we're nothing but hype and all this and that ... I just wanted to come out (Friday) and it prove it wasn't a hiccup. It's raw talent.
"This one feels pretty good."
The lone bright spot Friday for Palmetto was Southeast's win over Wauchula Hardee helped the Tigers clinch a playoff berth. They host the Seminoles next week for the Class 5A-District 10 title.
"Manatee's on one level, and everybody in the area is obviously on another level," said Tigers coach Dave Marino. "We've got the district championship on the line next week. We've got no place else to go but up and go fight for this championship.
"We're going to see what kind of character we have on this team. We're either going to fight back and win a championship, or this will linger on and then we'll go in as a runner-up. And that's a tough road right there."
Manatee can win the Class 7A-District 10 next week when the Hurricanes host Sarasota.
Friday night, however, the Canes believed they made a statement.
"We exposed a lot of (Palmetto's) weaknesses," Kinnan said. "You'd better come ready to play. You better bring your lunch bucket with you when you get out there, because our kids, they come to play football."