So here we are again.
It's Southeast vs. Manatee. Or Manatee vs. Southeast if you prefer.
The prevailing question is: When is a rivalry no longer a rivalry?
After losing 12 of 14, Manatee has now won eight straight and leads the series 19-14. It's getting to the point where fans around here are asking where you were when Southeast last beat Manatee?
That was Aug. 25, 2006, when Southeast led by 22 points with 1:10 left in the third quarter and hung on for a 28-21 victory.
For a rivalry to remain a rivalry, the other team has to win some of the time.
Since that August day in 2006, Manatee began riding airplanes to games all over the country and has made multiple appearances on TV. Meanwhile, Southeast has seen its school attendance shrink and legendary coach Paul Maechtle retire.
Some have argued there are more exciting local matchups, but for a rivalry to be a rivalry you need tradition and folklore. You need tales of guys who competed in that game and then went onto greatness after high school.
No two teams in Manatee County can live up to those standards except Manatee and Southeast.
Everyone still talks about Peter Warrick's punt return, about Adrian McPherson's laser-like passing, about Tommie Frazier and Willie Taggart. You get it, the list goes on and on. And let's not forget those state championships either.
Manatee-Southeast even has its villains, its Benedict Arnolds, and enough trivia questions to sell a book.
How about Shawn Williams, one memorable name who switched sides in the rivarly? He played for Southeast, transferred to Manatee for his senior year (2006 season), then transferred back to Southeast after football season. You could call him the biggest turncoat in the history of this rivalry. You could say he got what he deserved when the Noles beat Canes that year. But maybe Williams was just looking for playing time because he got beat out by Henry Sailes, who rushed for 103 yards the last time Southeast beat Manatee.
And then there is Chris Hart, the last Southeast quarterback to beat Manatee. He did it back to back in '05 and '06. Hart is still remembered as the man who defied coach Maechtle. He was told to run out the clock in the '05 game that was tied and play for overtime. Instead, he saw something he liked and threw a 93-yard touchdown pass to Faron Hornes to beat the Canes in the last minute.
Now that story has changed through the years, with Maechtle saying he gave Hart the OK to change the play. And Hornes got the best of his father, Faron Sr., who played for Manatee.
Sometimes you have to be patient as a rivalry goes through a rebirth. It might be happening right now. Southeast is growing again and has qualified for playoffs this season, winning five of its last six games.
The Noles have a bonafide legend in the making in runningback/quarterback/jack of all trades senior Kevin Johnson, who is worth the price of admission.
Who knows, 10 years from now they might be saying that Johnson sold popcorn in the stands at halftime. He is not Peter Warrick, but he has his flair for dramatics.
Johnson is a scholarly type who speaks with the sophistication of a college professor and then terrorizes would-be tacklers. Can we call him the Grim Reaper dressed in college robes?
Southeast threw a scare into Manatee last year before losing 39-26. That came after Manatee won the previous three games by an average margin of 47.7 points.
Last year, Southeast trailed 33-26 with 5:26 left in the game. Noles quarterback James Thomas etched his name into this rivalry's history book by throwing for 279 yards and a TD while running for 112 yards and three touchdowns.
In 2010, Southeast, behind Brian Poole, led 24-7 at halftime and lost 31-24 when the Seminoles' lack of depth did them in.
But know this; If Manatee takes this game lightly, as it might have last year, these Canes will be remembered as the first Manatee team to lose to Southeast in almost a decade. That's something no Manatee player wants to be remembered for.
Now Southeast? Those seniors would love it.