BRADENTON -- Traveling has become the norm for Manatee.
When the Hurricanes kick off the regular season at 6 p.m. Friday in Valdosta, Ga., against the Ware County Gators, it will mark the fourth time since 2010 they played a game outside of Florida.
For their head coach, however, it's a new experience. John Booth has done his share of traveling, having played college ball in Kansas before embarking on a career in NFL Europe.
But this will mark the first time he will do so at the high school level, making for an interesting regular-season debut for Booth, hired over the summer to replace Joe Kinnan.
"It'll be a fun experience," Booth said. "Obviously, we get familiar with the Southeasts and the Sarasotas and the teams we consistently play. So it will be a nice challenge to get out and see a team we haven't seen before and see where we stack up with a different state."
Unlike their trips to Pittsburgh, Maryland and Washington, D.C., Manatee were set to leave Friday morning and head back the same night. The game will be played at Martin Stadium on the campus of Lowndes High, which sits roughly 272 miles from Bradenton. Lowndes plays Tampa Plant in the second game of the doubleheader scheduled for 9 p.m.
The Hurricanes plan to stop in Ocala to eat and have a walkthrough and hope to be in Georgia by about 2:30 p.m.
"What I like about going out of town is the experience, the atmosphere," running back Johnnie Lang said. "It's the same thing I'll have to do with college. ... It's getting you ready for bigger things."
Lang scored a touchdown last season when Manatee beat Gilman at the University of Maryland's Byrd Stadium. But a several players on Manatee's roster haven't been a part of past trips or are unfamiliar with playing at a place like Martin Stadium, which seats approximately 10,000.
"Postseason play, particularly in late runs, you're traveling. And it might be a four-, five-hour drive," Booth said. "How are you able to handle that in a pretty tough environment? So I'm kind of glad we get to play the first game because there's going to be some transition where fans for the second game are going to come and kind of pack out the house a little bit more. So it'll be a good crowd and a good test for our kids and see if we're able to handle that stuff and process it and still go out there and function."
While the game is the centerpiece of the trip, Lang views it as a bonding experience. And it's a big reason why he is happy the Hurricanes continue to travel.
"It's a family, so we enjoy every time we're on the bus with each other, and have a couple of laughs," Lang said. "On our way there, the laughing just stops for a minute and everybody sleeps. Then we get back up and think about what we're going to do ... and then we're back there laughing again."