BRADENTON — He has never lost a football game to Southeast.
In case any of Manatee High’s younger players didn’t know, Drakkar Wilson spent most of Tuesday’s practice reminding them.
“I said, ‘Look, me never losing to Southeast, that should mean something to you all,’” said Wilson, a senior defensive lineman and one of Manatee’s captains. “‘You all should want to keep a line of things going.’ We set it this way, and this is how it’s going to be.”
Friday’s 29th meeting between the Hurricanes and Seminoles, set for 7:30 p.m. at John Kiker Memorial Stadium, will be the last one for guys such as Wilson, Quenton Bundrage and Mike Blakely — varsity mainstays who are trying to finish their prep careers with a perfect record against their fiercest rivals.
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They have never lost to the Seminoles, whose last win came in 2006 — when Brion Carnes and Ace Sanders were freshmen, and Blakely and Southeast’s current quarterback, Dyron Speight, hadn’t yet started high school.
They sure don’t want to lose Friday.
“I never want to lose to them,” said Blakely, Manatee’s running back. “You don’t understand how bad I don’t want to lose to them.
“I’ve never lost to a county team, period. And I just want to keep that going.”
It’s a testament to the rivalry’s vigor that a Week 3 non-district meeting means so much to a Manatee team ranked second in the nation by ESPN and one year removed from appearing in a Class 5A state final.
But this isn’t some simple non-district meeting — this is Manatee and Southeast.
“If you can beat Southeast, you’ve got control of the county,” Wilson said. “Crosstown rivals ... same neighborhood, same athletes. It’s going to be tense between us.”
Both teams enter Friday at 2-0, having scored decisive wins over their first two opponents.
Yet according to Blakely, that’s a luxury, not a necessity.
“No matter how good the teams are — we could be the sorriest team, they could be the best team — but once those teams play, it’s always a close game,” said Blakely, whose father, Mike, played at Southeast.
“It’s always good things happening in those games, because they’re rivalries, and everyone is going to give 100 percent — no matter what.”
Last year was a prime example. Southeast, a Class 2A team that petitioned to play up to 3A, led late in the fourth quarter when Manatee’s Taylor Shipley recovered a fumble with less than six minutes to go.
Manatee wound up winning by four.
“I’ve thought about it,” said Bundrage, a receiver, referring to the possibility of him graduating with losing to the Noles. “I’m just hoping we don’t lose this year ... just keep it going.”
There are bigger games down the road for Southeast and Manatee, both of whom are targeting long playoff runs.
But come Friday, this will be the biggest game there is. It’s a game Manatee’s seniors have never lost.
And it’s a tradition they don’t want to see stop any time soon.
“The young guys, their technique is going to hold that tradition up,” Wilson said. “And they’ve got to beat Southeast.”