Manatee WR Tarique Milton
MANATEE -- Tarique Milton darted upfield, caught quarterback A.J. Colagiovanni's inch-perfect pass in stride and broke free from two Lithia Newsome defenders that collided into each other.
There was nobody catching Milton as he tallied an 83-yard touchdown reception near the end of the first half Friday night.
It was the second long touchdown catch he had to that point.
His offensive explosion was something Manatee needed as the Hurricanes shook off a sluggish start to enact a running clock en route to a 56-13 rout of Newsome at Joe Kinnan Field at Hawkins Stadium.
"We came out flat, we weren't executing on either side of the ball," Manatee head coach John Booth said. "... That kind of broke the back of Newsome. They tried to hit a deep one on us and Paul (Mobley) made a great interception, and we came back the very next
play with a deep one right before the half. Tarique had a great game."
Manatee (7-2 overall, 6-0 district) polished off the Class 8A-District 6 title last week, but the Hurricanes reeled from a hangover effect in the first quarter against Newsome.
The Wolves jumped out to a 13-0 lead on their opening two possessions, while the offense was slow to get going. The Canes also generated seven penalties for 107 yards in the first half, finishing with 10 penalties for 127 yards.
Then a botched snap on a punt early in the second quarter allowed Manatee's Matt Kissell to recover in the end zone for the Hurricanes first score.
Offensive fireworks followed as Milton began to take over.
A hitch route and his speed allowed Milton to break free for a 77-yard touchdown, arming Manatee with its first lead with 6:07 left in the first half.
Following Manatee defensive back Paul Mobley's interception, Milton completed the 83-yard touchdown when Newsome's Drew Lindbeck and Bryce Barnes ran into each other as he jetted forward to pay dirt.
"I just knew it was time to be great," Milton said. "My coach always says, 'Be great.' So when I caught it, it was time to get to the end zone."
Colagiovanni, who finished with 261 passing yards, spread the ball to four different receivers.
Milton topped the group with four catches for 175 yards and snagged three balls for 172 yards and two scores before halftime.
"It certainly gives us balance," Booth said.
Milton was a non-factor in the early part of the season after rolling his ankle during the Kickoff Classic against Largo.
That left the Hurricanes to utilize the Reggie Carter and Kavious Price combo in the passing game.
But after Milton exploded for a career-high 10 catches for 126 yards and three scores in the district-clincher last week, the Canes have a potent trio at the ready.
"It makes me play better, because I saw them out there doing their thing," Milton said. "So I know I can do it myself."
The victory marked the sixth straight for Manatee, which started the year 1-2. The Canes host Southeast in a rivalry game next week, before opening up the Class 8A playoffs at home against Orlando Oak Ridge, who scored a victory at Orlando Olympia for the District 5 runner-up spot, on Nov. 13.