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Vin Mannix: Stadium rocks, Hurricanes roll

The Manatee Hurricanes rule!

Goodbye St. Thomas Aquinas and its No. 1 national ranking!

On to the state championship game!

When Manatee junior tailback Mike Blakely ran out the clock Friday night, Hawkins Stadium rocked with mass celebration.

Thousands of fans joyfully stormed the field, the Hurricanes banner waving back and forth as the scoreboard glowed in the chilly night with a triumphant final score of the Class 5A state semifinal.

Manatee 28, St. Thomas Aquinas 20.

Down went the nation’s No. 1 high school football team.

Down went the two-time defending Class 5A state champions.

Down went the 37-game winning streak that brought a palpable air of invincibility with the Raiders from Fort Lauderdale.

Coach Joe Kinnan’s Hurricanes took care of all that in a dominant display of football that woke up the ghosts of championships past that hover around that proud old dowager of a stadium on Ninth Avenue West and 32nd Street West.

Now it’s on to Orlando and the state championship game against Tampa Plant next Friday.

Let us savor what happened in the game that got the Hurricanes there.

Manatee played savage defense.

Manatee played outstanding kick coverage.

Manatee played a resolute offense.

There were heroes all around in Hurricanes red and white.

Big plays, too.

Perhaps the biggest was by senior cornerback Davian Evans, whose interception return for a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter broke open a tight game and helped stake the Hurricanes to a 21-7 lead. It was the blow that let the Raiders know their reign was over.

Senior quarterback Brion Carnes, senior wideout Ace Sanders and Blakely hooked up in Manatee’s last scoring drive to keep St. Thomas on the ropes.

Although the Raiders scored once more with 2:12 to go, the Hurricanes — thanks to Sanders’ covering of the Raiders onside kick — were not going to let this game, this victory get away.

An unforgettable night at Hawkins Stadium.

Mannix About Manatee, by local columnist Vin Mannix,is about people and issues in Manatee County. Please call Vin Mannix at 745-7055, write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, FL 34206 or e-mail him at vmannix@bradenton.com. Please include a phone number for verification.

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