Prep football | Manatee Hurricanes look to lengthen local streaks against Lakewood Ranch Mustangs

Canes look to lengthen impressive streaks against Mustangs

jlembo@bradenton.comNovember 9, 2012 

BRADENTON -- Derrick Calloway knows how it feels to be a state champion.

He knows how it feels to play in front of ESPN's cameras and how it feels to hop on a plane and play an opponent out of state.

Calloway, a senior on Manatee's stacked defensive line, has experienced nearly everything as a Hurricane, everything, that is, except for losing a regular-season game to a Florida school.

Quarterback Cord Sandberg hasn't experienced it, either.

Marquis Dawsey, a four-year starter at defensive end, has only done it once.

It's a mind-boggling streak Manatee looks to extend Friday night at home against Lakewood Ranch. The Hurricanes (9-0) have won 21 in a row overall, but 28 straight non-playoff games against Florida opponents.

Manatee's last regular-season in-state defeat: Oct. 30, 2009, at home against Venice.

Manatee also has won 23 straight against county schools since losing to Southeast during the first week of the 2006 season.

"It's the game of football that we love to play," said Calloway, who made his way into the starting lineup during the 2010 playoffs. "We look up those stats and things like that, but it's not all about that. It's just about us winning football games and com

ing out competing with other teams.

"That's what we love doing. If we keep winning, we keep winning. If we lose, we'll fix our mistakes. But right now, we're doing pretty good."

Losing hasn't been a common occurrence at Manatee the past three seasons. The Canes have lost three times since 2010, and all of those defeats have come to eventual state champions, beginning with Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas during that season's Class 5A state final four.

Last season, Manatee lost to Maryland's Our Lady of Good Counsel and New Jersey's Don Bosco Prep and haven't fallen since.

Whether it was Jacksonville First Coast in the 2011 Class 7A state final or nationally-ranked Miami Central this season in Week 3, Manatee has mowed its way through foes statewide and local.

"We've had a big impact, showing them that we're one of the best that came through here," Dawsey said.

The current run harkens back to early 1980s, when Manatee was building its reputation as a local and national power. The 1983 Hurricanes went 14-0 (the program's lone undefeated season) en route to winning a state title, and the '84 edition rolled through the regular season undefeated before being upset by Lakeland in the sectional playoffs. (Manatee was later awarded the win by forfeit.)

Manatee went 8-2 and nearly missed the postseason in '85 before winning a Kansas tiebreaker over Sarasota and Riverview and eventually winning another state title.

The Hurricanes also won 20 in a row in 1989 and '90. And speaking in terms of the county, Southeast lost just once in 1993 and '94, eventually becoming the only local football team to win consecutive state championships.

That one loss, which came to Riverview early in the '94 season, occurred while Peter Warrick was recovering from offseason hernia surgery.

Time will tell if this Manatee team can join the pantheon of those teams.

But coach Joe Kinnan said one thing sets this group apart from some of the others he has seen.

"The kids are focused. It doesn't matter who we're playing, we're coming out ready to play," Kinnan said. "If they're not real good, we're not (playing down to their level), where other years we've had that.

"This is how you've got to do it -- you've got to focus. And I really think that's a credit to our senior leadership."

There are bigger goals in sight for the Hurricanes -- ranked No. 1 in the nation by ESPN, MaxPreps and USA Today -- that extend far beyond Friday night's regular-season finale with the Mustangs. And that includes winning back-to-back state titles for the first time in program history.

But what's happened inside Hawkins Stadium the past three seasons won't soon be forgotten, especially if the Canes keep the streak going tonight.

"That's hard to do in Florida, to go undefeated," Kinnan said. "It'll take care of itself. A championship will take care of itself. But just go out there, play hard and win, and have a good time."

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