1. MANATEE (10-0) 50 points — You can talk all you want about another state title, but the Canes are playing for a national championship (mythical or not). If they run the table starting with their postseason opener Friday, more than one publication will crown them America’s best. It’s a nice way for Cord Sandberg, USA’s Mr. Nice guy, to end an incredible career.
2. SOUTHEAST (8-2) 40 — The population at this school continues to decrease, but somehow head coach Paul Maechtle manages to keep the pieces together and win another district title. If he can get the Noles to the state final four, he should be up for somebody’s coach of the year award. The Courtney Allen–Myles Braxton-Johnson tandem will be a load for any team to handle in the playoffs.
3. PALMETTO (8-2) 30 — Last week, the Tigers found their offense, which had been missing for two straight losses. They are going need it Friday against Auburndale if they hope to get that revenge rematch with Southeast in the region semifinal that has to be in the back of their minds.
4. LAKEWOOD RANCH (5-5) 20 — The season ended with the Mustangs losing three straight games and missing out on the playoffs. Two of the defeats were to undefeated teams (Manatee and Largo), and the future looks very bright with so many young players returning. But head coach Shawn Trent needs to improve his defense.
5. CARDINAL MOONEY (5-5) 6 — In their final game, the Cougars gave their fans a look at what the season might have been if everyone stayed healthy. Unfortunately, you can’t deduct losses for injuries, and head coach Josh Smithers can only spend the offseason wondering what if.
Others receiving points: Bayshore 4.
Voting: 10 points for first, 8 for second, 6 for third, 4 for fourth and 2 for fifth.
Voters: Alan Dell, John Lembo, Jason Dill, Timothy R. Wolfrum, Vin Mannix.