Manatee Hurricanes depart Bradenton for state title game in Orlando

MANATEE -- The Hurricanes departed Manatee High this afternoon as they head to Orlando for the Class 7A state title game.

“We’ve worked long and hard to get here,” said head coach Joe Kinnan. “Now we just got to do what we do, which is play football.”

Duffel bags and Christmas stockings filled with chips and other goodies were loaded onto the two charter buses that will take the players to the Citrus Bowl to play against Jacksonville First Coast.

Among the dozens of people who cheered in front of the Davis Buildling was Pou Crisp, grandmother of quarterback Cord Sandberg.

Crisp waved a red towel in the air as she yelled, “Woohoo!” Her son was part of the football team during the school’s 1989 state championship. “It would be awesome,” Crisp said about winning this year’s championship. “It means a lot to them.”

Many Manatee High students wore red T-shirts. Others waved red towels in the air.

Senior Wyatt Hoffman, 17, touted a sign that read, “Hurricane Warning.”

“It’s a big deal,” Hoffman said. “It’s pretty cool.”

Cheerleaders lined the entrance of the school’s Wheeler Leeth building as the football players made their way to the buses. Some players received hugs from the crowd. Morgan Demo, a senior and drum major with the marching band, was a student when the Hurricanes lost the 2009 state championship. “That was disappointing,” Demo said. “That really was.”

“For me, it’s a little bit of bragging rights,” Demo said if the Hurricanes bring home the championship.

Teachers -- some of them Manatee High alums -- were also part of the crowd. Michelle Gailey, an ESE teacher who graduated in 1988, was garbed in a red and blue windbreaker. She said winning the state championship gives a “real sense of community.”

“We’re doing it again,” Gailey said. “No. 5! Yes, we are.”

Related stories from Bradenton Herald