There were the pulsating runs, devastating hits and consistent plays that culminated in video game-type stat lines.
During the 2017 high school football season involving Manatee County programs, there were several performances that shined under the Friday Night Lights.
Here at the Bradenton Herald, we did our best to narrow the list to the Top 10.
You might agree or disagree, and that’s OK. Let us know through email or in the comments section online.
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1. Southeast’s Latrell Peavy, Nov. 3 vs. Harmony
There are many, many past greats to play at Southeast High. Peter Warrick, Adrian McPherson, Brian Poole, to name a few. Even earlier this decade with Courtney Allen and Kevin Johnson, the Seminoles featured dynamic running backs. Latrell Peavy blew them all away with the single greatest rushing performance in program history. Peavy tallied 401 rushing yards to set a program record, shattering James Shelley’s mark of 310 yards from the 2001 season.
2. Braden River’s Knowledge McDaniel, Oct. 6 vs. Palmetto
In an offense with so many weapons, the Pirates needed a big game from Knowledge McDaniel against district rival Palmetto. The junior wide receiver obliged, filling the role as the go-to passing game option for backup quarterback Jake Hepler, who starred with Bryan Gagg out with an injury. Hepler completed 12-of-15 passes for 243 yards. McDaniel produced two highlight-reel plays, including a late touchdown to seal a 31-24 victory. He finished with 10 catches for 210 yards and two touchdowns.
3. Manatee’s Keyon Fordham, Sept. 21 vs. Lutz Steinbrenner
A running back with considerable speed last year, Keyon Fordham flashed his athleticism in an early-season district game as Manatee’s new quarterback. Getting a taste of life under center during a loss to Palmetto, Fordham accounted for five touchdowns and 365 yards of offense in a 42-7 victory.
4. Saint Stephen’s Fred Billy, Oct. 12 against Bradenton Christian
Considering the emotions that flooded the game because of senior night festivities, Fred Billy’s performance was something special. He kept his balance on a teeter-totter run to grab his 100th career touchdown on a memorable Thursday night that saw Billy come to tears multiple times as he played in honor of his late mother’s memory.
5. Braden River’s Deshaun Fenwick, Oct. 26 vs. North Port
The South Carolina commit was ridiculous this season. He averaged 8.65 yards per carry and had multiple 200-yard rushing games. Picking his best game, though, was difficult. And even though the competition wasn’t the strongest, Deshaun Fenwick’s performance against the Bobcats was filthy – he had 217 rushing yards in the first half. Hurdling one would-be tackler and punishing other attempts with his power moves, Fenwick only played the first half before giving way to the backups in a blowout victory.
6. Braden River’s Bryan Gagg, Oct. 20 vs. Lakewood Ranch
The rivalry has dipped in recent seasons between the East Manatee County programs, but this year’s clash pitted a pair of one-loss teams at the time. And Bryan Gagg’s first appearance in the rivalry was something to behold. He torched Lakewood Ranch’s defense with precision passing, completing 15-of-17 passes for 364 yards and four touchdowns.
7. Southeast’s Alex Taylor, Oct. 6 vs. Cardinal Mooney
For the first time in the 2017 season, the Seminoles faced a stiff test. And Alex Taylor, who only started playing quarterback as a junior in 2016, flourished for a Southeast team that passed the test. Taylor picked apart the Cougars by completing 18-of-26 passes for 279 yards and four touchdowns.
8. Saint Stephen’s Chase Brown, Nov. 18 vs. Windermere Prep
Shaking off last year’s Sunshine State Athletic Conference championship sub-par performance, Chase Brown lit up Windermere Prep’s defense with NFL legend Ray Lewis watching from the Lakers’ sideline. A Western Michigan commit, Brown ran for 201 yards on 23 carries and five touchdowns in helping the Falcons win back-to-back SSAC titles.
9. Palmetto’s Tray Thompskin, Sept. 28 vs. Sarasota
The highlight to a stellar senior season for the defensive back came against the Sailors’ big-play offense. Tray Thompskin racked up six tackles (one for a loss), broke up a pass and returned a fumble for a touchdown.
10. Bayshore’s Michael Franks, Oct. 12 vs. Wauchula Hardee
The senior defensive back produced a gem in aiding Bayshore’s upset over eventual district champion Hardee. Michael Franks tallied eight tackles and a pass breakup, also taking part in every special teams play as the Bruins’ defense stopped the Wildcats from doing much damage. The 8-7 victory snapped the Bruins’ 13-game losing streak.