BRADENTON -- Playing a pair of out-of-state opponents worked well for Manatee High’s football team last season.
So the Hurricanes have decided to do it again.
Coach Joe Kinnan announced Thursday that Manatee will host Friendship Collegiate Academy out of Washington, D.C., on Saturday, Sept. 1, then head across the country to face Skyline, Wash., on Saturday, Sept. 15.
Both games are expected to be nationally televised, and no taxpayer money will be used for Manatee’s trip out west or FCA’s trip down south, according to Kinnan.
“It’s all covered,” Kinnan said. “It’s all being paid for by private sources.”
The Knights of Friendship Collegiate Academy went 9-1 last season, their lone loss coming to New Jersey powerhouse Bergen Catholic. MaxPreps ranked them second in the D.C.-area behind Our Lady of Good Counsel, which defeated Manatee last year in Maryland during Week 1.
The Knights boasted one of the country’s top recruits in senior defensive lineman Eddie Goldman, who signed with Florida State, and thanks in part to Goldman’s star power, the Knights opened last season in Ohio and scored a 12-6 win over Taft in a game broadcast on ESPNU.
This year’s game with Manatee will benefit the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization that assists the needs of the country’s severely injured servicemen and women. Each team will wear patriotic uniforms, and $2 of every ticket sold will go toward the Wounded Warrior Project.
“It’s going to be a special thing,” Kinnan said. “It’s something we can generate a lot of enthusiasm for around the community.”
The Hurricanes will be in Sammamish, a suburb of Seattle, two weeks later to face the Spartans, who won the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s Class 4A state title last year and finished 94th in Rivals’ final rankings.
It was the team’s sixth state championship since Skyline High opened in 1997.
Skyline’s quarterback, Max Browne, is ranked eighth in Rivals’ list of the country’s 100 best prospects for the class of 2013. The 6-foot-5, 202-pound Browne threw for 4,034 yards and 45 touchdowns last season, completing more than 70 percent of his passes and throwing seven interceptions in 409 attempts.
He’ll be up against Manatee’s returning front four that totaled 43 sacks last year, including five against Jacksonville First Coast in the Class 7A state final. And the Hurricanes’ quarterback, Cord Sandberg, was named Florida’s Class 7A player of the year, finished third in the balloting for Mr. Football and is ranked as the state’s top quarterback by Flavarsity.com.
“When you get two of the top quarterbacks in the nation,” Kinnan said, “that’s a big draw.”
Manatee hopes to fly into Washington on Thursday night and fly back Saturday following the game, which is tentatively scheduled to kick off at 2 p.m. West Coast time.
Kinnan said he believes the benefits of the trip go beyond a top-tier opponent. For instance, last year’s trip to Maryland included a tour around Washington, D.C., the day after the Good Counsel game.
“They’re going to make memories they’ll have for the rest of their lives,” Kinnan said. “A lot of our kids will never get a chance to go to the West Coast, so it’s going to be a neat experience.”
Scheduling FCA and Skyline means Manatee won’t get a rematch with New Jersey power Don Bosco Prep, which beat the Hurricanes last fall in Bradenton en route being named the nation’s prep football champion by MaxPreps and USA Today.
“It was impossible to set something up,” Kinnan said. “A third-party promoter didn’t fulfill his obligation.”
Ken Halloy of Halloy Boy Sports Marketing, who coordinated last year’s game as part of the Manatee Memorial Hospital Suncoast Challenge, did not return a call seeking comment.
The Ironmen will visit Florida to play Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas.
Kinnan said last year’s games against Good Counsel and Don Bosco Prep helped Manatee in its march toward the program’s fifth state championship and hopes these games pay similar dividends.
“Bottom line is winning the state championship -- that’s what everything is geared to,” Kinnan said. “I would rather be where we are now rather than having won those two out-of-state games and then lost to First Coast. Playing them really gave us a toughness, that we were ready to take on all comers.”