BRADENTON -- The defense was back on its heels, the backup running back was on the sidelines injured, and the game seemed to be slipping away.
No problem for Trevon Walters.
The Manatee High running back literally put the team on his back and carried the host Hurricanes to a 34-28 victory over Vero Beach in a Class 8A-Region 2 quarterfinal Friday night at Hawkins Stadium.
The senior running back carried the ball a school-record 40 times and picked up 274 yards with three touchdowns.
Every one of Walters' carries was needed.
The top-ranked Hurricanes (11-0) seemed to be coasting and led 34-14 with nine minutes, 31 seconds left in the game when Vero Beach (9-2) came alive under the arm of quarterback Dalton Stokes.
The senior scorched the Canes secondary for 271 yards passing and three touchdowns.
"We didn't play very well on defense. We didn't get any pressure on the quarterback, and we didn't cover their people very well," Manatee head coach Joe Kinnan said. "We've got to do a whole lot better next week. We won and that is the object to win. Their quarterback played every well, and they ran the ball well up the middle."
Manatee travels to face Fort Pierce Central (10-1) in the region semifinal next week.
Stokes hit Jason Pierre with a 32-yard touchdown pass with 7:50 left in the game to cut Manatee's lead to 34-21.
The Indians recovered the ball on an onside kick. Stokes connected on a 29-yard pass and then tossed a 12-yard scoring strike in the back of the end zone to Pierre to trail 34-28 with 6:27 left.
After the ensuing kickoff, Manatee had the ball at its own 15 with 6:22 remaining. The Canes passing game was inconsistent, and everyone in Hawkins Stadium seemed to know this game was going to rest on the legs of Walters.
He carried to ball five straight times for 38 yards. Quarterback Josh Meyer had a six-yard and four-yard run sandwiched around a two-yard run by Walters.
Manatee had a third and 2 at the Vero Beach 34 when Walters broke free for a 19-yard gain. Two plays later, Meyer ran it to the 5, and the Indians ran out of time.
"That was the most carries I've ever had in a game. I am very tired." Walters said. "I was really sore in my legs, but I will come in and get treatment and be ready for the second round. I never thought about asking for a rest because Johnnie Lang was injured and I knew I had to step up and be the man.
"On the last drive, I knew we just had to get first downs and keep the clock running. I had to do it for the team. They always looked up to me, and I give my offensive line the player of the game award. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't have gotten anything."
Manatee looked a little disinterested after the opening kickoff with Vero Beach going 80 yards on only three plays to take a 7-0 lead.
After losing the ball on a fumble, Manatee stopped Vero Beach, then scored on a 15 yard run by Meyer. The Canes added a seven-yard TD run by Walters. On its next possession, Meyer broke free for 56 yards breaking numerous tackles to push Manatee's lead to 21-7.
The Canes looked like they were going to break the game open, but Dalton hit a 52-yard TD pass with 5:55 left in the first half.
Manatee took the second-half kickoff and went 90 yards (all on the ground) with Walters scoring from five yards out to lead 28-14 and seemed to have the game wrapped up when Walters scored later on a 10-yard run to lead 34-14 with 9:31 left. Meyer finished with 133 yards rushing on 15 carries and threw for 57 yards.
Kinnan said Lang had a bone bruise. Kinnan e wasn't sure if the Canes' second-leading rusher would be available next week.
"We were going to play a lot of two backs in this game, but we couldn't with him hurt," Kinnan said. "Our offensive line did a great job. We were able to take the ball and make first downs. The only time we punted with threw the ball twice."