BRADENTON -- Marquis Dawsey and the rest of Manatee's defensive linemen like hitting the quarterback.
That's why spring practice was so frustrating -- they had to keep their hands off Cord Sandberg, Manatee's man under center who was honored prior to Friday's game against St. Petersburg Gibbs for being named last year's Class 7A Football Player of the Year.
"All spring, we couldn't hit the quarterback," Dawsey said with a laugh. "Hands off the quarterback."
So they made up for it Friday, collecting six sacks in the first half as the Hurricanes coasted past the Gladiators 49-6.
It was Manatee's first game since last December's state championship matchup with Jacksonville First Coast, which the Canes won to clinch the program's fifth state title.
They were just as dominant Friday.
"We're pretty good," said coach Joe Kinnan. "We felt we were a good team."
Manatee played like it.
After Gibbs recorded an interception off a tipped pass on the second play of the game, the Canes went to work, scoring twice inside the of final eight minutes of the first quarter.
Sandberg scampered 10 yards for Manatee's first points at the 7:45 mark before running back Trevon Walters took a shovel pass for an 18-yard touchdown with 3:13 to go in the period.
The aforementioned line, which recorded five sacks during the state final and returns starters Dawsey, Blake Keller, DeMarcus Christmas and Derrick Calloway, took over from there. The quartet came up with four sacks during Gibbs' bizarre second-quarter drive, during which Manatee was flagged three times for roughing the passer.
The Gladiators had the ball for nearly five minutes but only went 45 yards. And less than three minutes after recovering a punt at their own 3, the Hurricanes ran their lead to 28-0 when backup quarterback Josh Meyer ran in for a 3-yard touchdown less than three minutes before halftime.
"We've just got to keep on working, keep on getting better," Dawsey said. "The team's just got to keep pushing for it and take it one team at a time."
A freshman who was born in Bradenton and moved back to the area after spending last year in Oklahoma, Meyer hit receiver Joseph Andruzzi for a 15-yard touchdown late in the third quarter.
Walters handled most of the running, totaling 46 yards on the ground before Manatee pulled its starters early in the third quarter. Sandberg, set to enter his third year as Manatee's starter, threw for 64 yards and two touchdowns. Freshman receiver Kelvin McKnight made a circus catch in the back corner in the end zone for Sandberg's other touchdown.
"Me and Anthony (Lauro) are a year older, Ja Juan (Pollock), a year older," Sandberg said. "The offensive line's probably a little more experienced than last year and they've got size, so we definitely have the potential to do some things. I'm hopeful we can fulfill it."
Kinnan commended his players for a good spring during the postgame huddle before reminding them to get back into the weight room next week.
Manatee hosts Seminole Osceola on Aug. 24 in a Kickoff Classic.
"We're making progress, we're in the right direction," Kinnan said. "We're certainly a team you're going to have to reckon with next year."