BRADENTON -- No one is bringing a state football championship trophy back to the area following Manatee's defeat last Friday at Apopka in a Class 8A state semifinal.
But the 2014 season had enough moments to warrant one final edition of Numbers Game, which has been going steady since August.
Big stats, surprising seasons and the Hurricanes' memorable run to the Class 8A state final four -- yes, there was plenty to chronicle during the past five months, which began with two-a-days in broiling heat and ended with playoff games played in chilly conditions. Or as I call it, hoodie weather.
Numbers Game was there for all of it. And it is here for one final time.
Rushing yards for Manatee running back Johnnie Lang, placing him second on Manatee's single-season rushing list behind Shevin Wiggins, who was Mr. Football in 1993. A junior, Lang has rushed for 3,105 yards in his career and needs 1,347 next year to bypass Wiggins (4,451) for most all-time in Manatee County history. Who's No.2? That would be Southeast's Courtney Allen, who graduated from Southeast last year with 3,838 in four seasons as a Seminole. As for
Lang, he placed third in balloting for Class 8A Player of the Year in the Florida Dairy Farmers High School Sports Awards.
Area coaches nominated for coach of the year in their classifications as Manatee's John Booth (Class 8A), Braden River's Curt Bradley (7A) and Cardinal Mooney's Josh Smithers (3A) all warranted the honor. Booth took third after guiding Manatee to 12 wins and a regional title in his first season following Joe Kinnan, while Bradley's Pirates won their first district title and a program-best 10 games two years after finishing 1-9. Smithers, who has been in charge of the Cougars since 2007, helped Mooney win its second straight district championship and earned his first playoff win as a head coach when the Cougars defeated Clearwater Calvary Christian in a Region 3 semifinal. Bradley and Smithers finished outside the top three in balloting.
Consecutive seasons Palmetto has made the playoffs. The Tigers had never made the playoffs more than three years in a row, and only Manatee, postseason participants every year since 2009, has a longer streak in the area. There is, however, one streak Palmetto wants to snap next fall: The Tigers have bowed out of the first round of the playoffs on back-to-back seasons.
Years since senior football players from Manatee and Sarasota counties didn't match up in the Brad Price Memorial PAL Bowl. But it didn't happen this season after the game's organizers, citing a number of factors including scheduling and decreasing attendance, decided to pull the plug following last year's game. Bragging rights will be forever up for debate -- Manatee and Sarasota counties each won 10 times before last year's game ended in a 27-27 tie.
Years of the new district alignments, which the Florida High School Athletic Association will release soon. Cycles used to last two years, but the FHSAA chose to double the length to help strengthen rivalries and because enrollment has steadied, said association spokesman Corey Sobers. Interesting to see how the alignments will shake out for area teams.