BRADENTON -- The first one was a nail-biter. The second was a rout. The third?
Fort Pierce Central and Manatee are about to write that chapter.
In what's becoming a fall tradition, the Cobras and the Hurricanes meet again in the playoffs when Manatee treks across the state to Lawnwood Stadium on Friday for a Class 8A-Region 2 semifinal.
The particulars are different -- the teams were Class 7A-Region 3 foes the last two years -- and so are the stakes. The last two meetings were region championship games.
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As for the Cobras, they are hoping for a different result. After playing the Canes close in Bradenton during a 13-10 loss in 2011, they watched Manatee run away with a 51-0 win last year on the Treasure Coast.
"We look at it as another opportunity to play against a team like Manatee and the great history and tradition they have," Cobras coach Josh Shaffer said. "It's our chance to compete against the best, and last year we took a beatdown. And rightfully so; they were a much better team than we were last year."
Shaffer isn't too concerned about a carryover considering last year's Cobras lost 35 seniors to graduation. It also makes this year's accomplishments -- a 9-1 record, third consecutive district championship, No. 8 ranking in Class 8A -- even more impressive.
"We knew we had some talent coming up. It was just a matter of getting them game ready and getting that experience," Shaffer said. "Over the summer, we focused a lot on 7-on-7s, and we also did our normal camps stuff. We also upped our level of competition this year."
The Cobras' non-district schedule included Class 7A Kissimmee Osceola and Class 6A Daytona Beach Mainland. Both teams are playing second-round playoff games Friday, and Mainland handed the Cobras their only loss (31-28) during the final week of the regular season.
"They've got very good athletes," Manatee coach Joe Kinnan said of the Cobras. "I'm sure they'll play us much better than they did last year. We're expecting a much closer contest."
One constant for the Cobras is quarterback Sam Vaughn, who has thrown for 2,307 yards and 22 touchdowns. He has completed better than 64 percent of his passes (143 for 223) while throwing three interceptions and is second on the team in rushing (309 yards).
Vaughn has offers from Florida Atlantic and Florida International.
"He brings stability to the offense and gives the coaches an extra set of eyes out there," Shaffer said. "He knows how to make all the correct calls and when to call different audibles. ... He's a fantastic leader and is having a fantastic year."
Defensive end Rashawn Shaw has committed to Louisville, and linebacker Sharieff Rhaheed, who missed most of the year after undergoing wrist surgery, has roughly 20 Division I offers.
Vaughn's top target is Alquawn Vickers (53 catches, 711 yards, eight touchdowns), and Nehari Crawford has 33 catches.
"They're good," Kinnan said of the Cobras. "We're not going to do anything a whole lot different than what we've been doing. We've got a good running attack, and we'll see what happens."
The Canes, 11-0 and ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 8A, endured a scare from Vero Beach last week, thanks in part to running back Trevon Walters, who ran 40 times for 274 yards.
Walters' workload shouldn't be as heavy this week. Kinnan expects backup running back Johnnie Lang, who missed most of last week's game with a bone bruise on a knee, to play Friday.
"I know they're trusting more on the run game," Shaffer said of the Canes. "I know Cord (Sandberg, Manatee's quarterback last year) could hurt you with his arm and his legs. And the new kid (Josh Meyer) can throw, but he's really an explosive runner. Not that Cord wasn't, but this kid really takes it upon his shoulders. And they rely a lot on Trevon, and I would too if I had that offensive line. ... It's the best offensive line we've seen."
Lawnwood Stadium was packed and loud last fall before the Hurricanes pulled away and turned the game into a rout.
Shaffer expects another big crowd Friday and hopes his Cobras can keep the fans in it.
"Hopefully, we'll try and keep it closer," he said.