After last week’s loss to visiting Sarasota Riverview, Manatee High School senior quarterback A.J. Colagiovanni and others on the football team’s leadership council started talking.
The season isn’t over. What can be done to get back to Manatee football? What are ways to help the younger players? These were the questions and topics for Colagiovanni, Garrett Ware, Tarique Milton, Sir Williams and others.
On Friday at Riverview’s J. Vincent Thompson Stadium, the Hurricanes (5-3, 4-1 Class 8A-District 6) responded with a 49-14 victory against the Sharks.
The offense produced with a pass-happy attack, and Colagiovanni reaped the benefits.
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“It’s awesome having the ball in your hands,” Colagiovanni said. “You want to make plays (and) get it in the hands of playmakers.”
Colagiovanni completed 8 of 10 passes in the first half en route to 193 passing yards and six touchdowns in the victory. More importantly, his performance helped the Hurricanes stay in the playoff picture. Manatee’s win, coupled with Sarasota Riverview’s 41-14 victory against Lithia Newsome means the Canes can clinch a playoff berth next Friday at Newsome. A loss, though, derails that opportunity.
On Friday in Hillsborough County, the Canes erupted on offense.
Colagiovanni connected with nine receivers, and even fired a touchdown pass to lineman Seth Walter, who was a receiver-eligible tackle on one play.
Meanwhile, the defense tried loading the box against the Sharks’ wishbone attack. Some plays yielded stops. Other times, the Canes’ defense gave up huge chunks of yardage.
“With this type of offense, it’s tough,” said Manatee head coach John Booth, whose team allowed 279 rushing yards on Friday. “Everybody has to stay on their keys, and it’s glaring when you don’t.”
Manatee hasn’t missed the playoffs since 2008. To continue that streak, fixing the holes from three losses, including last week’s district matchup with the Rams, Booth said Manatee has to play assignment football on defense.
“When we have backside contain and fill the gap, we have to make sure guys are there,” Booth said. “When we’re in a position to make a tackle, we missed a lot of tackles (Friday), we missed a lot of tackles against (Sarasota) Riverview, so we’ve got to make sure of our tackles.”
The defense, though, forced four turnovers, with Brandon Dossey recovering two fumbles.
Keyon Fordham, who has dazzled with his speed in Manatee’s defense, sat out Friday’s game following an injury he sustained last week against Sarasota Riverview. Booth said he has a high ankle sprain and the hope is he’ll be back next week at Newsome.
In Friday’s blowout of the Sharks, Manatee didn’t miss a step on offense with Colagiovanni and Josh Booker accounting for 154 of the team’s rushing yards.
Manatee 49, Riverview 14
M— Javarius Pollock 12 pass from A.J. Colagiovanni (Daniel Reyna kick), 10:49
M— Pollock 28 pass from Colagiovanni (Reyna kick), 10:12
M— Tarique Milton 9 pass from Colagiovanni (Reyna kick), 0:33
R— Tamel McCall 28 run (Matthew Cochran kick), 5:23
M— Josh Booker 4 run (Reyna kick), 4:12
M— Seth Walter 13 pass from Colagiovanni (Reyna kick), 0:42
R— Isaiah Killings 3 run (Cochran kick), 1:31
M— Milton 19 pass from Colagiovanni (Reyna kick), 11:48
M— Jadan Robinson 12 pass from Colagiovanni (Reyna kick), 3:31
Rushing: Manatee 26-220: Scott Voltaire 3-22, Colagiovanni 10-66, Booker 10-88, Robinson 2-45, Travon Joseph 1-(-1). Riverview 51-279: Dominic Gonnella 15-46, Killings 5-28, Eric Brown 13-78, Cameron Lyles 12-54, McCall 6-73.
Passing: Manatee 15-22-1, 193: Colagiovanni 15-22-1, 193. Riverview 0-1-1, 0: Brown 0-1-1, 0.
Receiving: Manatee 15-193: Robinson 2-42, Walter 1-13, Pollock 4-55, Leo Rose 1-8, Jernard Porter 1-29, Milton 3-34, Booker 1-(-3), Shane Hooks 1-10, Xavier Stuart 1-5.