PALM HARBOR -- What Manatee's victory Friday lacked in drama it made up for in importance.
The Hurricanes closed district play with a 35-0 pasting of Palm Harbor University to clinch the Class 8A-District 7 championship, their sixth straight and first under new coach John Booth.
Manatee (8-1, 3-0) closes the regular season at Venice next week and hosts Fort Pierce Central, the runner-up from District 8, on Friday, Nov. 14, in a Region 2 quarterfinal.
"That's kind of the first step on the ladder, to put us in the position to be most successful in the postseason," said Booth, a Manatee alum hired in July to follow Joe Kinnan. "I'm proud of the kids."
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The Hurricanes had another rough start, including the defense, which was called for three straight offside penalties. But that unit also helped set up the offense, beginning when Joe Robinson recovered a fumble on PHU's 21-yard line midway through the first quarter.
Three plays later, Johnnie Lang lined up in the wildcat, dropped a high snap but recovered in time to run it 26 yards for the first of his three touchdowns.
Palm Harbor University was driving late in the first quarter and opened the second on Manatee's 35. But Jamarion McDonald intercepted PHU quarterback Brandon Swift on the first play of the period and returned it to PHU's 33.
Quarterback Sloan Drummonds hit a striding Kelvin McKnight in the back corner of the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown, and Lang's 7-yard run with 3:44 remaining gave the Canes a 21-0 lead heading into the half.
Drummonds was 9-for-14 and threw for 165 yards.
"We always talked about throwing the ball. You know us; we're a run-first team, but (Friday) we opened it up," said receiver Kavious Price, who had three catches for 72 yards, including a diving grab that went for 31 yards to set up Lang's second touchdown.
"Sloan had some great throws, Kelvin made some nice plays, and even myself, I had a nice catch."
Lang finished with 88 yards, the first time since Week 1 in Georgia he didn't run for at least 100 yards. But his touches were limited -- he had 14 carries -- as Manatee triggered a running clock with more than four minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Manatee limited PHU to 111 yards in recording its first shutout since last October.
"It was good to get some turnovers early," Booth said, "and create some short fields for the offense to get the ball in the end zone."
Octavious James needed just five carries to total 66 yards and a touchdown.
Manatee closes the regular season next week at Venice, now 9-0 after clinching the Class 6A-District 7 title Friday, before playing Fort Pierce Central in the playoffs for the fourth straight year.
"This will be a great rehearsal. They're a great football team and they're playing great football," Booth said of the Indians. "And we're going to see some great football teams after them. So it will be a good dress rehearsal to make sure we're hitting on all cylinders."