BRADENTON -- John and Mary Pope have been going to Manatee High School football games for 25 years and said until Friday they had never been "wanded" for weapons at before being allowed into Hawkins Stadium.
Alisha Kromer has let cars park in her yard for $5 in the 800 block of 33rd Street West for the last two years and has never seen police block all the gates, as they did Friday.
Curious about an unusually heavy police presence and metal detectors at all four Hawkins Stadium gates, fans at Friday's Manatee-Southeast game were buzzing about rumors, including that someone had posted something on social media about violence at the game.
But law enforcement officials Friday said the presence of roughly 27 Manatee County Sheriff's Office marked vehicles and 12 Bradenton Police Department units was just because of the intensity of emotions between the two teams.
"This is a big rivalry game and we always are here when we have high profile games," said Deputy Chief Warren Merriman of the Bradenton Police Department. "We have had no confirmation of a threat."
Manatee won 62-0.
The metal detection was routine due to the rivalry and was decided by the Manatee County School District and handled by its staff, Merriman said.
Backpacks were also not allowed in Friday's game, Merriman added.
"We have had wanding between these teams before, although I don't know if we have had it here at Manatee's field," Merriman added.
"This is the first time," John Pope said of the wanding at Hawkins Stadium. "But I guess they had a reason."
"A lady in line said they thought it had something to do with violence at this game and the upcoming Palmetto game," Mary Pope said.
"Someone posted on Facebook that there was supposed to be a gang war," said fan Terry McMann.
Kromer, who has a family member in local law enforcement and whose dad, Dave Giddens, was a longtime Palmetto and Holmes Beach police officer, said she had heard rumors that something "gang related" could happen.
"I have never seen this many police for football," Kromer said. "For parades, yes, for football, no.
Most fans took the wanding in stride.
"It's a sign of the times," said Dave Prince, whose son, also named Dave, plays trumpet in the Manatee High marching band. "I'm going to the USF game Saturday and will have the same thing. I think we were wanded at last year's Manatee and Southeast game, too."
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him through Twitter@RichardDymond.