High School Football

Three Manatee County football teams headed to playoffs. Here’s who they’ll face in first round

Hey, Manatee County, are you ready for some playoff football?

The high school football playoffs are here, and Manatee County will be well represented.
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The high school football playoffs are here, and Manatee County will be well represented.

The Florida High School Athletic Association announced its football playoff pairings on Sunday, and this season’s field will feature three Manatee County teams.

The three schools — Braden River, Manatee and Palmetto — also qualified in 2017, while Cardinal Mooney, which includes players from Manatee County, returns after a one-year absence.

Moreover, Manatee and Palmetto have road games against familiar foes — the Hurricanes and Tigers face the same opponent they opened the 2017 playoffs against.

Here’s a look ahead to the opening round of the FHSAA playoffs.

Braden River

The Pirates (8-2) are postseason-bound for the fifth straight season and face a team whose head coach has Manatee County ties.

No. 5 seed Braden River will open the Class 7A-Region 3 playoffs against a fourth-seeded Plant City (9-1) team led by James Booth, a former assistant coach at Manatee and Palmetto.

Booth’s twin brother John was Manatee’s head coach from 2014-16. The Booth twins played at Manatee in the late 1990s under legendary coach Joe Kinnan.

The Pirates won’t have Knowledge McDaniel, the 2017 Bradenton Herald Offensive Player of the Year, in uniform. The 3-star recruit was ruled ineligible for the postseason by the FHSAA for violating the association’s policy against receiving impermissible benefits from a booster club member.

Braden River’s two losses this season — 27-22 at Jacksonville Trinity Christian and 24-21 at Venice — came against teams seeded first in their respective regions and combined to go 19-1 in the regular season.

If Braden River beats Plant City and Venice beats No. 8 seed Tampa Bay Tech, the Pirates and Indians would meet again in the region semifinals.

Plant City’s lone loss was a 44-24 setback against two-time state champion Seffner Armwood.

Braden River beat Plant City in the 2015 Class 7A-Region 3 final to advance to its first state semifinal.

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Running back Brian Battie and the Braden River Pirates open the Class 7A playoffs on the road against the Plant City Raiders. Tiffany Tompkins ttompkins@bradenton.com

Cardinal Mooney

Back-to-back losses to close the regular season cost the Cougars (8-2) a first-round bye in the six-team Class 3A-Region 3 field.

Instead of getting a week to rest, No. 3 seed Cardinal Mooney will host sixth-seeded Clearwater Calvary Christian (5-5).

The good news for the Cougars: Mooney beat Calvary Christian 34-22 on Sept. 28.

The Cardinal Mooney-Calvary Christian winner will face No. 2 seed Tampa Berkeley Prep. Mooney downed Berkeley Prep 28-17 on Sept. 7.

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Head coach Paul Maechtle and the Cardinal Mooney Cougars host Clearwater Calvary Christian in their Class 3A-Region 3 opener. Tiffany Tompkins ttompkins@bradenton.com


For the 10th straight season, the Hurricanes (6-4) are headed to the postseason.

For the second straight season, Manatee will open the playoffs with a trip to Kissimmee Osceola (9-1).

This time, the Canes are the No. 7 seed in Class 8A-Region 2 and hit the road to face the second-seeded Kowboys.

A year ago, No. 8 seed Manatee was eliminated by top-seeded Osceola 44-16.

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Running back Keyon Fordham and the Manatee Hurricanes will open the Class 8A postseason at Kissimmee Osceola. Tiffany Tompkins ttompkins@bradenton.com

All four of Manatee’s losses this season came to teams that could make deep postseason runs: Lakeland (No. 1 seed in 7A-Region 2), Braden River (No. 5 seed in 7A-Region 3), Sarasota Riverview (No. 3 seed in 8A-Region 2) and Venice (No. 1 seed in 7A-Region 3).

Osceola’s lone setback was a 21-7 loss to Tampa Jesuit on Oct. 5. The Kowboys enter the postseason on a four-game winning streak.

Kissimmee Osceola ends Manatee's football season with a 44-16 victory.


The Tigers (7-3) are making their second consecutive postseason appearance.

And for the second straight year, No. 7 seed Palmetto will open the Class 7A-Region 3 playoffs with a trip across the Sunshine Skyway bridge to face second-seeded Pinellas Park (10-0).

A season ago, the Tigers rallied for a 28-24 first-round victory over the Patriots before being eliminated by Tampa Bay Tech in the region semifinals.

All three of Palmetto’s losses this season came against playoff qualifiers: Manatee (No. 7 seed in 8A-Region 2), Braden River (No. 5 seed in 7A-Region 3) and defending state champion Venice (No. 1 seed in 7A-Region 3).

Pinellas Park posted four shutouts — including three straight to open the season — and won nine games by 21 points or more during its 10-0 regular season. The Patriots’ closest game was a 21-13 victory over St. Petersburg Lakewood on Oct. 5.

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Quarterback Anthony Marino will lead the Palmetto Tigers into a Class 7A first-round matchup against Pinellas Park for the second straight year. Tiffany Tompkins ttompkins@bradenton.com

This week’s schedule


Class 8A-Region 2 playoffs

Manatee at Kissimmee Osceola, 7:30 p.m.

Class 7A-Region 3 playoffs

Braden River at Plant City, 7:30 p.m.

Palmetto at Pinellas Park, 7:30 p.m.

Class 3A-Region 3 playoffs

Clearwater Calvary Christian at Cardinal Mooney, 7:30 p.m.


Sunshine State Athletic Conference semifinals

Mount Dora Christian Academy at Saint Stephens, 7 p.m.