It was the fall of 2006 the last time Manatee lost to a Manatee County football team.
“I didn’t realize that,” said coach Joe Kinnan. “That’s good.”
Southeast beat the Hurricanes during a stormy night at John Kiker Memorial Stadium, back when the Noles were quarterbacked by Chris Hart and Manatee’s Brion Carnes and Ace Sanders were inexperienced freshman, baptized by the area’s hottest rivalry.
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Manatee hasn’t lost to a backyard rival since, and looks to further that roll tonight when the Hurricanes head to Braden River.
Bigger goals for Manatee than maintaining local supremacy?
Sure. The Hurricanes are itching to get back to the Citrus Bowl, and beating the neighbors won’t do anything to make that happen.
But another perfect trek through the county — Manatee didn’t play Bayshore this fall, choosing to open the season in Woodland Hills, Pa. — is a goal the Canes set at the beginning of the season.
Kinnan mentioned it just before breaking Thursday’s post-practice huddle.
The message is clear — accomplish this goal, and maybe more will follow.
There have been some close calls — mounting comebacks against Southeast the past two years, grinding out a win over the Pirates during a rainy Homecoming last year at Hawkins Stadium — but Manatee hasn’t been tripped up by a Manatee County team since Austin Jensen was making his second straight run to the Class 5A all-state team.
Kinnan hopes Manatee can continue it tonight and carry more fuel into the next two weeks, when the Hurricanes head to Riverview and Venice to play two games that will either make or break their postseason fate.
“Then we’ve got to get ready to play some tough district opponents,” Kinnan said. “We’ve got to take care of business (tonight).”
For the better part of this streak, Manatee’s recent run consisted mostly of wins over Southeast and Lakewood Ranch.
The Hurricanes recently renewed their rivalries with Bayshore and Palmetto, and they played Braden River for the first time in a varsity game last year.
Nonetheless, it’s an impressive streak. And keeping it going has allowed Kinnan to give his players some incentive to carry them through the non-district games, which serve no other purpose then to keep players fresh for the all-important district games.
There are bigger games coming for Manatee, just as there are bigger games for all the area teams whose playoff picture will become clearer after the upcoming district matchups.
Yet a win tonight and the Hurricanes keep their local streak intact. That’s one of their goals.
Accomplish that, and maybe more will follow.