Manatee fans join cross-state football playoff caravan

vmannix@bradenton.comDecember 1, 2012 

BRADENTON -- Eddie Knighton had been up working the graveyard shift stocking shelves at Walmart on Thursday night.

So had her sister, Freddie Ackerman.

Jack Canny Jr. had been up with his dad at Blake Medical Center, too.

Yet these Hurricane devotees were at Manatee High School on Friday afternoon, all dressed up in red and among the 55 strong boarding the charter bus for the Class 7A-Region 3 cross-state showdown against the Fort Pierce Central Cobras.

They would be joining hundreds of other Hurricanes fans at Lawnwood Stadium in Fort Pierce.

"We're going to bring it home," Knight said. "It's going to be a winner."

"We'll sleep on the bus and party on the way back," Ackerman said.

They had an added interest in the big game.

Hurricane defensive lineman Derrick Calloway is Knighton's grandson and Ackerman's nephew.

In fact, despite no sleep they made a special trip at 11

a.m. before the Hurricanes team buses departed to bring him a nice, big lunch.

"He's very important to us -- and to Manatee," Knighton said.

Canny, a longtime fan, agreed.

Too bad his dad wasn't along to see Calloway and the Hurricanes play Friday night.

Jack Canny Sr., who's 82, fell and broke his hip Thursday night and underwent surgery at Blake.

"The first thing he said while lying there was, 'I'm going to miss Fort Pierce!'" Canny said. "He said it all the way to the hospital in the ambulance, too."

It was a bad case of deja vu all over again.

Canny's dad fell and injured himself this time last year and missed the Manatee's narrow 13-10 regional victory over Fort Pierce Central at Hawkins Stadium.

"I told him I'd call him at halftime, but I know he'll be calling me all night," the son said.

Canny was cautiously optimistic he'd have good things to tell his dad.

"They played us tough last year, but I'm sure we're good for more points this time," he said.

Samantha Hackney agreed.

"We're ready," said the 10-year-old. "I like it when they score a lot of points."

So does her grandfather, a longtime Hurricanes fan.

"We want to do a lot of traveling," Tommy Wright said. "I want to beat St. Thomas next week (in Fort Lauderdale)."

Which is what concerned Paul Barnett, another longtime Hurricanes fan.

"I'm a little scared," he said.

"I'm afraid they might be looking too far ahead and overlooking this team."

Otis "Flagman" Jackson, coach Joe Kinnan's self-proclaimed No. 1 fan, said have no fear.

"We will prevail," he said.

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix.

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