The traditional gift for a 30th anniversary is pearls. The modern gift is diamonds.
Quite fitting, considering Southeast, Manatee and the football game they have played since the 1970s have supplied the county with both over the years.
The annual backyard brawl between the Noles and Canes turns 30 tonight at Hawkins Stadium, with Manatee holding a slight edge (15-14) in a rivalry that is unrivaled.
So much has changed since the Seminoles and Hurricanes first met in 1974, a game Manatee won on the field but later lost by forfeit when the Canes were penalized for using an illegal player.
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Enrollment has changed. Bradenton has changed. Manatee County has changed. The whole prep football landscape has changed, with teams scheduling nationally-ranked opponents in a quest to win a national championship.
The Seminoles vs. the Hurricanes? Like the Talking Heads said, it’s the same as it ever was.
It still matters. It still matters to the players, who now do their trash talking over email, and it matters to Manatee coach Joe Kinnan and Southeast coach Paul Maechtle, who have been on the sideline for 26 of the series’ 29 games.
It matters to the Seminoles, who have had to watch their rivals regain a mountain of national exposure since Manatee beat Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas in a 2009 state semifinal. It matters to the Hurricanes, who still consider the Seminoles a bigger rival than the Don Bosco Preps and Tampa Plants of the world.
It matters to the community. How can it not?
Southeast vs. Manatee is Peter Warrick and the Punt Return Heard ’Round Bradenton in 1993. It’s Kinnan and Maechtle, standing in a classroom and huddled around Bay News 9’s Doppler radar while rain and lightning pelted John Kiker Memorial Stadium in ’06.
It’s the Noles and Canes, both unbeaten, coming together in 1983. It was a benchmark season for both programs: Manatee won its first state title later that year while the Noles made the playoffs for the first time under Maechtle.
Two years later, on Oct. 4, Southeast made a dent in Manatee’s mystique, beating the Canes for the first times.
Two months later, both hosted a state championship game.
It’s Chase Sandberg, early in his freshman season, kicking the game-winning field goal during Manatee’s 16-14 win in ’08.
It’s Southeast’s Chris Hart and Faron Hornes connecting for a 70-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter to spoil Kinnan’s return to the sideline in ’05.
It’s the two teams meeting as district foes for the first time in ’95. Southeast won in overtime, helping the Canes miss the playoffs for the first time in 13 years.
It’s Tommie Frazier and Brion Carnes and Adrian McPherson and Jonathan Dowling. It’s Mike Blakley, bad shoulder and all, helping the Canes erase a 17-point halftime deficit last season.
It’s Manatee vs. Southeast. It’s special.
It always will be.
John Lembo, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 745-2097.