In a bizarre evening in Alabama, misplayed kicks, a number of penalties, and either an eye-opening display of offense or an substandard defensive effort resulted in a 78-56 loss for Manatee High School against the Hewitt-Trussville Huskies at Hewitt-Trussville Stadium on Friday.
Hurricanes coach John Booth was proud of how his offense battled, but the 56 points were not enough to make him happy,
“We got to win,” Booth said. “A.J. (Colagiovanni) had a fanstastic game, but we just didn’t play good enough to win.”
Alabama’s sixth-ranked Huskies and Florida’s eighth-ranked Hurricanes.
The strangeness began immediately.
▪ Manatee misplayed the opening kickoff, allowing the Huskies to recover and set up at the 26. Parker Colburn’s 29-yard field goal gave the Huskies a 3-0 lead.
▪ Midway through the second quarter, Hewitt kicked off to Manatee. The Hurricanes watched the ball bounce toward the goal, and walked away, apparently expecting the ball to roll into the end zone for a touchback. But the ball reversed its spin and was dying inside the 5 when Sir Williams dashed back to pick it up. The Huskies had a fabulous opportunity to nail him deep in his territory. But Williams broke free and returned the ball to the Hewitt 42.
With great field position, the Canes gave it away when Colagiovanni was intercepted by the Huskies’ David Acfalle, who returned it 55 yards.
▪ The Huskies were sitting on the Manatee 26 and facing a possible 10-yard penalty. Given the choice between sticking Hewitt with a fourth-and-16 or a third-and-26, Booth opted for the fourth-and-16. Huskies quarterback Connor Adair promptly found Grayson Cash wide open for a 26-yard scoring pass.
With all the scoring, the see-saw first half took 1 hour and 48 minutes to play. When the clock hit zeros, Hewitt-Trussville led 47-34.
“We knew that they had some guys on offense that could points on the board,” Booth said. “But we just didn’t tackle well. We overpursued too much, and they did a good job of cutting back and finding running lanes.”
In the first half alone, Manatee produced 18 first downs and 308 yards of offense. Colagiovanni went 7 of 13 passing for 102 yards and two scores. The Canes rushed for 179 yards, 115 by Josh Booker and 103 by Tarique Milton. Milton also passed three times, completing one for 27 yards, and caught four passes for 66 yards and two TDs.
Meanwhile, the Huskies, coached by Josh Floyd, a Gus Malzahn protege as a quarterback at Shiloh Christian in Arkansas and later as head coach there, were rolling, too.
They picked up 14 first downs with 339 yards of offense, 193 passing and 146 rushing, in the half. Adair was 12 of 17 for 193 yards and four TDs, two to Cash, one to Noah Igbinoghene and one to Elliott McElwain. Cash carried 10 times for 88 yards.
If no players needed to launder their jerseys at half, the referees were obliged to run their hankies through the heavy cycle. Manatee was whistled for 11 accepted penalties for 103 yards and the Huskies took the backward walk nine times for 110 yards.
The Huskies took the second-half kickoff and slowed the tempo, mixing runs and throws and converting a fourth-and-8 that led to a 28-yard field goal by Colburn to stretch the lead to 50-34 with 5:59 left in the third quarter. That was the third quarter’s only points, although the Huskies mounted a scoring drive that spanned quarter break. Cash’s 15-yard touchdown run capped the 80-yard drive, and the PAT made it 57-34 with 10:43 remaining.
Manatee managed a TD with 7:10 to play and converted a two-point conversion, but one scrimmage play later, Cash went 47 yards for his fifth touchdown of the night. The PAT made it 64-42 with 6:55 left.
Colagiovanni led the Hurricanes to another score with slightly less than 5 minutes to play and again completed a two-point pass to cut the score to 64-50.
But Hewitt recovered the onside kick, and Igbinoghene broke through the defense for a 23-yard scoring run to make it 71-50 with 2:47 to play.
Colagiovanni got his team back into the end zone with a 14-yard TD pass to Shane Hooks with 1:08 to go. A two-point play failed, and that left it at 71-56.
But Hewitt recovered the onside kick, and Cash smashed loose for his sixth TD of the game with a 40-yard run. The extra point gave Hewitt the 78-56 win.
Booth said he didn’t want his players to wipe this game from their minds. A little hurting isn’t a bad thing.
“We’ve got to learn from this.”
Manatee opens its home schedule Friday at 7:30 p.m. against Palmetto.