BRADENTON -- A new era in the storied prep football rivalry between Manatee and Southeast high schools began Saturday morning at John Kiker Memorial Stadium.
That was welcome news for the Seminoles.
They entered the contest having lost seven straight games against their cross-town nemesis, the past three by an average of 47.7 points.
No, the Noles did not pull off the upset Saturday in a game played without both of the school's legendary coaches, Manatee's Joe Kinnan and Southeast's Paul Maechtle, for the first time since 1980.
What the Seminoles did during a 39-26 defeat is make a statement that they will no longer be pushed around by their bigger neighbor to the west.
Using a pass-first offensive philosophy, Southeast led 20-19 late in the first half and trailed just 33-26 with 5 minutes to go in the game when Manatee stopped a drive deep in Canes territory.
Ultimately, the Hurricanes had too much firepower in junior running back Johnnie Lang and senior receiver Kelvin McKnight. They increased their lead in the series to 19-14.
And it could be that, as a Manatee assistant coach suggested, the Canes played sluggishly because the game was delayed 15 1/2 hours by Friday night's heavy rain and lightning.
But on the Southeast sideline, the message was clear: The comeback has begun.