As district action kicks off this week for Manatee County teams, you won’t have to look far for a couple compelling matchups to get your Friday football fix.
Start with Palmetto-Braden River in Class 7A-District 11, which features a pair of 2-1 teams coming off playoff appearances and looking to make a deep postseason run in 2018.
Add in Bayshore-Southeast in Class 5A-11, which features two up-and-coming programs — the Bruins and Seminoles are a combined 5-1 this season — looking to return to the postseason.
Not a bad way to get the district schedule started.
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Here are storylines to watch for Manatee County teams as kickoff approaches for Week 4.
The undefeated Bruins (3-0) are riding their first three-game winning streak since 2005 as they make the short trip to Southeast for the Class 5A-District 11 opener. Bayshore has posted two shutouts and allowed three points in opening with victories over Sarasota (24-0), Lakewood Ranch (19-3) and Cape Coral Island Coast (8-0). What’s more, the Bruins had lost 16 games in a row against Manatee County teams before beating Lakewood Ranch in Week 2. If Bayshore can make it back-to-back wins against county foes, it would move the Bruins closer to their first postseason berth since the ’05 season.
The return of senior receiver Knowledge McDaniel (if only briefly) and head coach Curt Bradley dominated the headlines as the Pirates (2-1) beat Manatee last week. Not to be overlooked was another superb performance by running back Brian Battie, who had 267 rushing yards and four touchdowns in the 41-31 victory. It was Battie’s second straight game with four touchdowns. McDaniel won’t be available for the Class 7A-District 11 showdown against visiting Palmetto after being granted partial reinstatement by the Section 3 Appeals Committee, so look for Braden River to rely on Battie and the right arm of quarterback Bryan Gagg in its district opener.
Still looking for their first win, the Panthers (0-2) face a difficult task as they host an unbeaten Out-of-Door Academy squad that has outscored its opponents 107-15 through three games. This will be Bradenton Christian’s first home game; the Panthers’ Week 1 game against visiting Auburndale Jordan Christian Prep was canceled because of inclement weather.
How about the job being done by legendary Southeast coach Paul Maechtle in his first season leading the Cougars? Cardinal Mooney (3-0) has the week off before resuming its quest for the program’s first 4-0 start since 2014 against Englewood Lemon Bay. Quarterback Ryan Bolduc threw three touchdown passes in last week’s 28-17 Class 3A-Region 3 win at Tampa Berkeley Prep, giving him seven in the past two games.
Coming off a 35-0 win against Liberty in Henderson, Nev., in the Polynesian Football Classic, the Ascenders were to play two games in seven days that likely would have defined their season. First, IMG (3-0) was to put its 40-game winning streak on the line against St. John’s College High in Washington, D.C., on Saturday. The Cadets are the last team to beat the Ascenders (35-2 on Aug. 29, 2014) and are coming off a 37-34 victory over Miami Central in five overtimes. But the game was postponed because of Hurricane Florence and the state of emergency that was declared in Maryland. The programs are working to reschedule the game. Next week, IMG travels to California to face perennial power Mater Dei, which finished last season No. 1 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 rankings. IMG was No. 2.
It’s been a difficult start for the Mustangs (0-3) in Christopher Culton’s first season as coach, with losses to Cape Coral Ida Baker, Bayshore and Southeast. Now comes the Class 7A-District 11 opener against defending state champion Venice (2-1), which comes to town having won two in a row after a season-opening loss against Vero Beach. Fullback Drake Theriot has logged at least 100 yards in each of the first three games for Lakewood Ranch.
That brutal stretch to open the season — at Lakeland, home against Palmetto, at Braden River — is history, and the Hurricanes (1-2) head into the Class 8A-District 6 opener at Lithia Newsome (1-2) ready to make a run at the program’s 10th consecutive postseason appearance. The Manatee offense is loaded with weapons — behind Keyon Fordham, the unit had 206 passing yards and 133 on the ground in last week’s loss to Braden River — and the Hurricanes are a favorite to win the seven-team district.
The Thunder (3-0) are averaging nearly 36 points per game and have allowed only two touchdowns in opening the Chris Kempton era with three lopsided victories, the most recent a 33-0 rout of Lakeland Sante Fe Catholic in which Colin Castro had 12 carries for 229 yards (19.1 yards per attempt) and four touchdowns, including a 99-yard burst. Standing in the way of a 4-0 start is Bradenton Christian, which is coming off a 30-0 loss at Winter Garden Foundation Academy.
How’s this for dominant quarterback play: In the Tigers’ two wins, Anthony Marino has accounted for 11 touchdowns — six rushing and five passing — while throwing for 448 yards. The senior signal caller was especially impressive last week as Palmetto (2-1) rallied from a pair of 14-point deficits to beat Sarasota Riverview 42-35 behind Johnny Jones’ 1-yard scoring run with 32 seconds to play. Marino will need to be at his best as Palmetto (2-1) travels to Braden River for the Class 7A-District 11 opener.
The Falcons’ 22-game winning streak dating to the start of the 2016 season ended with last week’s 35-21 loss to Windermere Prep in a rematch of last year’s Sunshine State Athletic Conference title game. Ironically, Saint Stephen’s previous loss came by an identical 35-21 score, against Community School of Naples in Week 1 of the 2016 season. The Falcons (1-1) will look to start another winning streak as St. Petersburg Shorecrest Prep (2-0, including a win over Bradenton Christian) travels to Bradenton.
The Seminoles (2-1) scored four defensive touchdowns in last week’s 40-3 win against Lakewood Ranch, with Eli Washington (two), Javian McElern and Octavious Calhoun returning fumbles for scores. Playing its third straight home game, Southeast opens its Class 5A-District 11 schedule against surprising Bayshore, which has yet to allow a touchdown through three games. The Noles have outscored their opponents 55-12 in winning their first two home games. This is Southeast’s final game at Paul Maechtle Field at John Kiker Memorial Stadium until Oct. 19 against Wauchula Hardee.
Week 4 schedule
Orlando Christian Prep at IMG White, 7 p.m.
Out-of-Door Academy at Bradenton Christian, 7 p.m.
St. Petersburg Shorecrest Prep at Saint Stephen’s, 7 p.m.
Bayshore at Southeast, 7:30 p.m.
Manatee at Lithia Newsome, 7:30 p.m.
Palmetto at Braden River, 7:30 p.m.
Venice at Lakewood Ranch, 7:30 p.m.