Manatee’s return trip to Alabama for its football season opener will look a little different than last year with fewer frills and amenities.
The Hurricanes have decided to travel by bus to play Hewitt-Trussville after flying to face Alabama power Hoover in 2015. The change of plans is a simple case of money said Manatee head football coach John Booth.
“The whole trip last year cost about $23,000. We hope to cut that in half. This trip is expected to be around $11,000, and Hewitt-Trusville has agreed to give us about $7,000 to help with expenses,” said Booth who made the travel plans.
Booth said the trip is financed by fundraising done by the players and contributions from boosters, but he still he couldn’t justify spending another $20,000 plus to play a football game. The trip to Trussville, which will involve two buses, is about nine hours,
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“Last year by the time we left school, landed and got to the hotel we were still looking at a seven-hour day, so time-wise it’s not much different,” Booth says. “With a bus we won’t be landlocked at the hotel. It allows us to to get our guys off the grounds (of the hotel) and maybe take them to do a college tour.”
Hewitt-Trussville appeared to be on its way to a strong season last year behind quarterback Zac Thomas, who had passed for 1,460 yards and 12 TDs while rushing for 829 yards as the team started 6-2. But he broke his leg against Hoover, and the Huskies lost their last three games.
Ironically, Thomas is going to Appalachian State where he will compete with Braden River quarterback Jacob Huesman.
The game is slated for Friday, Aug. 27. The Hurricanes will leave Thursday morning and plan to have a walk through that night either at the game site or Troy University. Manatee will play host to power Seffner Armwood in its pre-season Fall Classic and plans to compete in about three or four 7 on 7 tournaments during the summer, including those at Venice, Plant and University of South Florida.
Booth likes the proposal by the FHSAA to change the playoff format by doing away with districts and awarding points to teams for playing tougher schedules with eight teams in each region of each class qualifying for the postseason.
“I kind of like it because it benefits you to challenge your team with a tougher schedule. The thing now is we see two- and three-team districts getting teams into the playoffs with two or three wins and other teams with good records being bumped out,” Booth says.
Hills soars into Tampa
Palmetto’s Joe Hills, who leads the Arena Football League in receiving, will be in Tampa Saturday with his Jacksonville Sharks to face Tampa Storm.
The 6-foot-4 receiver set a franchise record two weeks ago when he caught eight touchdown passes for Jacksonville in a 59-56 victory over Orlando. The 28-year-old leads the AFL in all three major receiving categories with 1,242 receiving yards, 96 receptions and 32 touchdown passes.
“I was in the moment. It didn’t really hit me until I got to the sidelines that I had eight touchdown passes because I was concentrating on the game,” Hills said. “The most I ever caught in a game was six when I played with Tampa, but we lost that game. This game we won and everybody is happy in the locker-room and giving me props.”
A couple of Canadian Football League teams contacted Hills afterwords, but he said he is not ready to leave Florida unless the NFL calls.
“My Facebook and Twitter accounts were blowing up, and I got a lot of props from former teammates and friends saying they saw the game and read how I was tearing up the league,” Hills said. “It’s going to be fun coming home to play the Storm. A lot of my friends and family will be there. The NFL is still a goal for me. I get contacted by them all the time, but nothing really solid. They just tell me stay in shape and be ready. I just know I am some name on somebody’s board somewhere.”