Manatee fell short Friday night of its fifth state championship, losing 21-14 to Tampa Plant in the Class 5A title game at the Florida Citrus Bowl.
The Hurricanes (13-2) trailed 21-0 at halftime, but stormed back late in the third quarter to make a game of it.
Quarterback Brion Carnes and receiver Quenton Bundrage teamed for a 34-yard catch and run for Manatee's first score with 3:42 left in the third.
Then, one play after pulling in an 87-yard pass, Mike Blakely scored on a 2-yard touchdown run with 37 seconds left to go in the quarter to make the score 21-14.
Midway through the fourth, Manatee squandered a golden opportunity, turning the ball over on downs on 4th-and-inches from the Plant 24. Brion Carnes actually lost yardage on quarterback keeper.
The Panthers hit the ground running in the first quarter.
James Wilder Jr. totaled 43 rushing yards on the first drive of the game. setting up a 15-yard touchdown pass from Philip Ely to Eric Dungy to give Plant a 7-0 lead. The touchdown capped an 80-yard drive that took just over four minutes.
Then, following a 30-yard run by Wilder Jr. and a facemask penalty against Manatee, the Panthers' DeAndre Queen scored on a 2-yard run for 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Wilder Jr. capped Plant's dominating first half with an impressive 42-yard touchdown run in which he bounced off several would-be tacklers for 21-0 with 3:06 remaining in the half.