BRADENTON -- Steve Gulash knows a lot about Fort Pierce Central, which plays host to Manatee on Friday in a Class 8A-Region 2 semifinal matchup.
As a freshman, Gulash played for the Cobras. He moved after his first year and eventually wound up playing for Manatee.
Gulash, now the Hurricanes' defensive line coach, said if the Canes don't play better than they did in their region opener, a 34-28 win over Vero Beach, the season will be over.
Gulash played on Manatee's 1992 state championship team and was a two-time all-conference selection at Eastern Kentucky. He knows a lot of the people connected with the Fort Pierce Central football program and said the one thing they share with the community is pride.
Last year, Manatee went to Fort Pierce and thrashed the Cobras 51-0.
"They are a little humiliated because of the way we beat them up last year," Gulash said Friday night. "I know those people over there, and they don't take that lightly. We have to play better than we did tonight. I told our guys we have to be ready. That stadium was loaded last year, and it's going to be loaded again."
Vero Beach quarterback Dalton Stokes shredded the Canes' secondary, throwing for 271 yards, and almost won the game single-handedly with his passing.
"I don't know yet what happened. They (Vero Beach) did a heck've job and gave us fits," Gulash said. "I thought we would get plenty of pressure, but we didn't. I was frustrated all night. I told our guys I don't have an answer. All I know is we have to move on and I've got to look at the film. We got pressure sometimes, but their quarterback got rid of the ball. I don't have an answer of why we didn't play better except they are a great football team."
Fort Pierce Central also has a quality quarterback in senior Sam Vaughn, though he is not a volume passer like Stokes.
The 6-foot-3, 185-pound Vaughn threw 21 TD passes last year with six interceptions. He is considered a heady quarterback and has reportedly received offers from Colgate and several Ivy League schools.
Manatee hopes to get backup running back Johnnie Lang back for the region semifinal. The sophomore suffered a bone bruise, according to head coach Joe Kinnan.
Senior running back Trevon Walters picked up the slack, recording a school-record 40 carries and rushing for 274 yards and three touchdowns.