High School Football

Manatee was a big underdog in playoff opener. Here’s how the Canes pulled off the upset

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.

Manatee High quarterback Anthony Squitieri found Osceola’s pass defense largely to his liking Friday night, throwing for 174 yards and two touchdowns to help the Hurricanes stun second-seeded Kissimmee Osceola 28-17 in a Class 8A-Region 2 quarterfinal.

Seventh-seeded Manatee (7-4) will face No. 3 Sarasota Riverview, a 41-22 winner over Port St. Lucie Treasure Coast, in next week’s region semis. The Hurricanes suffered a 24-13 loss to the Rams on Oct. 12.

Davon Wells ran for 120 yards on 18 carries, and Dwayne McGee ran for 99 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown for Osceola (9-2). The Kowboys, however, doomed themselves with penalties that erased several opportunities. Osceola committed 12 penalties for 106 yards.

Wells also completed 3 of 10 passes for 60 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown to Colton Weismore. But Wells was picked off by Demoundre Evans

Manatee established its passing game in the first half, with two first-half Squitieri touchdown passes. Squitieri completed 8 of 12 passes, doing most of his damage in the first half.

“We had to get out on one-on-one matchups. We had to hold our blocks, because that defensive front is one of the best you’ll see,” Manatee head coach Yusuf Shakir said.

Said Squitieri: “We saw some matchups we liked, and we have some great athletes out there. We were trying to exploit those matchups outside.”

With Osceola respecting the Hurricanes’ pass, Squitieri steered Manatee into running. Keyon Fordham ran for a 50-yard touchdown, and Squitieri added a 1-yard plunge.

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Manatee running back Keyon Fordham

Manatee gave Osceola two big opportunities in the first half by muffing punts. The Kowboys, however, returned the favor on the first muff by committing holding and unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties that erased a touchdown and ultimately killed the drive.

Colton Weismore recovered the second muff. However, the Kowboys could get only a 28-yard Spencer Richards field goal out of it.

“We put our athletes on the outside and let our big guys contain the fullback,” said Manatee’s Brandon Shannon, who had 11 tackles. “We trusted our athletes.”

Osceola gave Manatee a huge break on the Hurricanes’ first drive, piling on an unsportsmanlike penalty on top of an offside penalty. Two plays after that 20-yard swing, Squitieri found Irone Jackson just ahead of an Osceola defender on a sideline route for a 62-yard touchdown pass and a 7-0 lead.

After another long Osceola drive ended in a missed field-goal attempt, Wes Coleman snagged a 51-yard Squitieri pass on a post route to the Osceola 3. Two plays later, Squitieri hit Fordham on a slant route for a 9-yard touchdown.

Manatee broke open its running attack in the second half. Fordham capped Manatee’s opening second-half drive with a 50-yard run on a jet sweep. Manatee scored on its first two drives of the second half to give itself just enough cushion.

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