BRADENTON -- The regular-season winning streak.
The shot at another 10-0 run. A lofty national ranking.
All of it hung in the balance Friday night at Hawkins Stadium, where Manatee was dealt a challenge it hadn't seen in a non-playoff game in more than two years.
All of it, however, is still in play.
Manatee roared back to beat Fort Lauderdale University School 28-24, electrifying a capacity crowd that injected a playoff-like atmoshphere into a game between two non-district -- yet nationally ranked -- foes.
In running its record to 9-0 -- and likely improving its national standing because the Class 4A Suns were ranked higher by MaxPreps, USA Today and Rivals -- Manatee erased a 21-0 first-quarter deficit, outscoring University 21-3 in the second half.
"This is very satisfying," said Canes coach Joe Kinnan, whose team hasn't lost a regular-season game since Week 3 of the 2011 campaign against New Jersey's Don Bosco Prep.
"I think you saw two of the best teams in the nation (Friday)."
It was a nightmarish start for Manatee. University scored on the first play from scrimmage when Jordan Scarlett took a screen pass 91 yards.
The Hurricanes had a shovel pass intercepted and a punt blocked, as well. Those miscues, coupled with
the Suns' Auburn-bound quarterback Sean White (22-for-35, 384 yards), put Manatee in a three-score hole with 30 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
"That's the best quarterback we've played against since I've been back," said Kinnan, who returned to Manatee's sideline in 2005.
Manatee's offense finally got in rhythm late in the first half, when Marquel Hines' 3-yard run capped a five-minute drive and cut the Suns' lead to 21-7 just before half.
The Canes kept University out of the end zone on the Suns' first drive of the second half -- Andrew DiRocco's 37-yard field goal made it 24-7 with 6:00 remaining in the third quarter -- and then went to it up-tempo offense, named its NASCAR package, in the hopes of wearing down University.
Hines scored on a 4-yard run with 2:54 to go in the third, and after forcing a punt, the Canes cut the deficit to 24-20 on Josh Meyer's 9-yard run with 10:42 left in the game.
Then came the break Manatee needed: Scarlett, a running back, fumbled on University's ensuing drive, and the ball was recovered by Antonio Henderson, giving the Canes posssession on the Suns' 43 with 8:46 remaining.
Manatee rode Meyer (22 carries, 100 yards) and Trevon Walters (30 for 138) all the way to the 2. Facing fourth down, Meyer took a snap, rolled to his right and hit Kelvin McKnight for a touchdown.
Walters ran in the two-point attempt, and Manatee was up 28-24 with 6:07 to go.
"I didn't have the best throwing night," said Meyer, 6-for-17 for 57 yards. "But I'm happy I got through that...We came through.
"Heart -- that's all I can say."
University made it all the way to Manatee's 20 before White's 4th-and-5 attempt fell incomplete.
And after Walters barrelled forward for a first down, Meyer took two knees to clinch the victory.
"We just stayed in the game," Meyer said. "We just kept pushing and pushing and pushing until they got wore down."
Already Class 8A-District 7 champions, Manatee hosts Palm Harbor University next week and gets a week off before hosting a Region 2 quarterfinal Nov. 15.
"This is what we wanted it to be to get ready for the playoffs," Kinnan said. "(University) has a real good football team."