We all knew this day was coming.
We prepared for it. Braced for it.
That doesn't make it easier, though.
So this is it, the last regular-season edition of Numbers Game for the 2014 prep football season.
Go ahead, cry. Let it out. You'll feel so much better.
Trust me. I know.
The regular season ends Friday though a handful of area teams have playoff games to prepare for when the regional tournaments begin Nov. 14.
So let's just dive right in. And thanks for playing Numbers Game.
Local district champions after Braden River, Cardinal Mooney and Manatee clinched titles -- and the first-round home games that go with them -- last week. District champions for the first time, the Pirates host Largo Pinellas Park on Nov. 14 in a Class 7A-Region 3 quarterfinal, while Fort Pierce Central visits Manatee in a Class 8A-Region 2 quarterfinal. The Cougars welcome Clearwater Calvary Christian in a Class 3A-Region 3 semifinal. (Classes 1A through 4A have one less round of playoffs than the bigger classifications). The area's lone runner-up, Palmetto, heads to Tarpon Springs East Lake in a Class 7A-Region 3 opener.
Postseason victories for the Hurricanes, the most in Manatee County (Southeast is second with 39) and sixth-most in the state since the Florida High School Athletic Association began crown
ing state football champions in 1963. Manatee is 57-22 all-time in the playoffs (those 79 postseason games are also good for sixth in the state) and two wins behind Lakeland on the state's all-time list. Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, a team Canes fans know well, is tops on the list in playoff wins (82) and games (107), though no one has more championships than Jacksonville Bolles (11).
Different coaches who have lead Braden River and Manatee to the playoffs even though the Pirates' first full-fledged varsity season was 2007 and the Hurricanes spent this fall celebrating 100 years of football. Pirates coach Curt Bradley joins a list that includes Josh Hunter (2008), Ed Volz (2009) and Don Purvis (2010). Manatee's John Booth follows up Calvin Short (1973), Joe Kinnan (1981, 1983-94, 1999-2000, 2005-07, 2009-13) and Howie DeCristofaro (2001-2003).
Victories for Saint Stephen's, the most in a season since the program brought football back in 2006. The Falcons clinched the milestone Friday with a win over Gainesville St. Francis in a game to help determine the final standings for the Sunshine State Athletic Conference. Saint Stephen's wraps its season Friday against at home against Ocoee Legacy Charter in another SSAC seeding game.
Point differential, on the plus side, for IMG Academy, which scored a 50-21 win over a Clearwater Central Catholic team considered one of the best in Class 3A and in the state. Making this number more impressive is the Ascenders opened the season with a 33-point defeat at the hands of St. John's out of Washington, D.C. Ranked No.1 in the state and 17th nationally by MaxPreps, IMG closes the regular season Friday at home against Hialeah Champagnat Catholic, the reigning champion in Class 2A currently ranked fifth in that classification by MaxPreps.
John Lembo, Herald staff writer, can be reached at 941-745-7057. Follow him on Twitter @JohnLembo1878.