Who plays better football: Manatee County or Sarasota County?
It’s an argument some folks try to stir up every year, but it’s time to put this one to rest for good. Sorry folks down south, Manatee County wins this debate.
But don’t take one person’s word. Let the numbers speak because they don’t lie.
The best barometer is head-to-head competition between teams that have played a lot of games against each other and built longtime rivalries.
There are four teams that fall into that category: Manatee and Southeast vs. Sarasota and Riverview. The Hurricanes and Seminoles have winning records against both.
Southeast is 20-10 against Riverview and 12-6 over the last two decades. The Noles are 16-13 against Sarasota with a 13-5 mark the last two decades.
Manatee is 60-23-4 vs. Sarasota in one of the state’s oldest rivalries and 26-19 against Riverview.
Manatee County has won seven state football titles and been in the state championship game 13 times. Sarasota County has two state titles and been in five state championship games.
Manatee High leads the way with its four state titles and six championship game appearances followed by Southeast (two state titles and five final game appearances). Palmetto has one state title and two state final appearances.
For Sarasota County, Venice and Cardinal have one state title each in their only state championship game appearance. Riverview went 0-2, and Booker lost in the 2005 state final.
Only two players have won the Mr. Florida Football Award from this area, and both are Manatee County products Shevin Wiggins (Manatee High) and Adrian McPherson (Southeast).
It would be a stretch of unimaginable proportion for anyone to allude that Sarasota County overall has produced better players down through the years, particularly looking at what many of the Manatee County guys did after high school.
Want to add a kicker? Long-time Lincoln High football coach Eddie Shannon said his school was 38-0 against Booker during segregation days.
Time to pay tribute
What we need is a Manatee County Football Hall of Fame. It’s time to pay tribute to the players who launched their careers here and made major contributions to the game.
This would be about what you did on the field, but also honoring guys who went above and beyond what you would expect from a college football player.
Guys like Ray Bellamy!
He is the Jackie Robinson of college football in the South. He put his life on the line and received a barrage of death threats when he enrolled at Miami to become the first African-American to sign with a major college football program south of the Mason-Dixon Line in the early 1960s.
He didn’t put up Hall of Fame numbers at Miami, in part, because of a car accident. But the 6-foot-5, 185-pound receiver helped changed the landscape of college football.
Tommie Frazier and Peter Warrick combined for three national titles at Nebraska and Florida State, respectively, and in many ways made Manatee County the mecca of college football during the 1990s.
A Manatee County HOF candidate for meritorious service to the game would have to be longtime Bradenton resident Ed Dick, who recruited Bellamy for Miami.
“He was the first white guy to come to our team to talk about going further and told us Miami was interested in getting a black player to go there,” Shannon said.
Of course, no Manatee County football HOF would be complete without head coaches Joe Kinnan of Manatee and Southeast’s Paul Maechtle, along with the 89 year-old Shannon, who helped keep the peace during some turbulent times in the late ’60s and early ’70s.