John Booth had a simple message for his players this week: No one cares.
So don’t feel sorry for yourself.
When his Manatee High School football squad takes the field at Venice Friday night, he reminded them no one is going to remember that they played Monday night.
The Canes could have canceled their game with Palmetto that was delayed three days because of weather, but Booth said the game means too much to the players.
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So now they are taking on a highly touted team on the road on three days of rest, something NFL players complain about every chance they can.
“If I asked our players if they’d rather play a game or practice, they would say a game,” Booth said. “I told them no one is going to remember we played Monday (7-3 victory): That is what it boils down to, and we are not going to use that as an excuse.”
Booth and defensive coordinator Chad Choate would rather focus on continuing the momentum from limiting a rival to three points after giving up 78 points the previous week against Hewitt-Trussville (Ala.).
“Against Palmetto, we did a much better job of being focused and making sure we were in the right alignments, but we also played better with more spirit and passion and tackled well,” Booth said.
“We played well, but they converted a lot of third downs and kept our offense off the field, and we had some big plays negated by penalties.”
Palmetto’s ball-control offense kept Manatee from getting its offense rolling, but the Tigers couldn’t finish. Venice presents a different problem with quarterback Bryce Carpenter and running back Matt LaRoche, who ran for 238 yards in the Indians’ last game, a 46-17 victory against Camden County High (Ga.).
“The Venice offense is led by their quarterback. He is a big physical (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) tough runner, and you have to contain him. When we get a chance to wrap him up we have to do that,” Booth said.
It will put the Canes’ defense back in the spotlight.
Linebacker Garrett Ware, who led Manatee with 12 tackles against Palmetto, said playing on three days of rest is less of a problem then when they played Hewitt-Trussville.
“We see this is as an opportunity to win two games in a week,” Ware said. “Venice is going to try and wear us down. Against Palmetto, it was kind of redemption. We wanted to prove that we were still the defense that played Armwood (28-19 victory). We weren’t very focused going up to Alabama, but this week we hunkered down even though we only had two days of practice.”
Choate wasn’t surprised his defense played better against Palmetto given the natural rivalry of the game and how much it means to the players.
“Everyone wants to play up. At Alabama, we had some players who had great games against Armwood and did not have a good game against Hewitt,” Choate said. “For some of them it was their first time out of state and first time staying at a hotel. We got them out of their comfort zone and wanted to see how they responded. Now we are moving forward.”
This game could be a shootout, but if that happens Booth said his offense has to play more physically, particularly with its receivers blocking on the perimeter.
“Venice does a very good job of keeping their gaps and being disciplined. They don’t bite on a lot of different things so we are going to have to take what they give us and make sure we do a great job with our blocking,” Booth said.