Every year, preseason kickoff classic games serve as a barometer for what high school football coaches can expect throughout the fall.
The result doesn’t matter toward your record.
This year, though, one game stands out above the rest.
Manatee against Southeast.
The two longtime rivals haven’t played since 2016. Getting the game back on the schedule, even if it’s a Kickoff Classic, was important to both third-year Manatee High head coach Yusuf Shakir and second-year Southeast High head coach Brett Timmons.
“It’s the fabric of what Manatee County is about,” Timmons said at this year’s inaugural Suncoast High School Football Media Day. “There is no Manatee County football if there is no Manatee and Southeast. There’s a lot of upstarts coming around, but these are two giants.
“These are two blue-collar programs that you need to have that’s essentially Manatee County’s version of the Hatfields versus McCoys. And I think it’s time to introduce the new generation to that.”
Shakir and Timmons have known each other for more than 20 years.
So the two got to talking about bringing the game back after it went on hiatus following Manatee’s 42-24 victory over the Seminoles in 2016, which was former head coach John Booth’s final season with the Hurricanes.
Shakir was hired in May 2017 and enters his third season — second full one — with the Canes. He’s not been a part of the Manatee-Southeast rivalry that arguably reached a zenith during the 1990s.
Still, Shakir was part of rivalries while at Tallahassee Lincoln and understands just how important the Manatee-Southeast game is to the community.
“It brings our community together,” Shakir said.
Legendary head coach Joe Kinnan built Manatee into a state power in the 1980s with three state titles at his alma mater during the decade.
Southeast recorded its first victory on the field in the series in 1985, but the Hurricanes dominated the rivalry until the Seminoles started their own successful run in 1992 — they won 12 of 14 meetings beginning in that year.
Like Kinnan, who ended his Manatee High career with five state championships, Paul Maechtle put together the blueprint to develop his own program into a state power.
That culminated with Southeast’s back-to-back state championships in 1993 and 1994.
Timmons played on those teams.
“We took pride in being the kids on the other side of the railroad tracks,” he said. “There were only four high schools back then and Manatee had pretty much what we wanted. And I was always taught by my parents nobody in life is going to give you anything.
“So if you want what they have, you’re going to have to go over there and take it. That’s the kind of mentality that we had.”
Eastward expansion and growth in Manatee County curtailed the enrollment numbers at Southeast as Lakewood Ranch High opened in the late 1990s, and then Braden River High less than a decade later.
Still, the Manatee-Southeast game was the game to circle on everyone’s calendar for a long time.
Timmons called the game “must-see TV” on Friday nights, referencing it as Manatee County’s version of Florida State-Miami or FSU-Florida.
A who’s who of stars who went on to play big-time college football and in the NFL represented the west (Manatee) and east (Southeast) sides of Bradenton each fall.
From Tommie Frazier, Shevin Wiggins and Tracy Sanders to Peter Warrick, Adrian McPherson and Todd Williams, the list goes on and on.
And now it’s time for a new generation to embrace the tradition, not play against the ghosts of the past, and take their place in a rivalry series that’s part of Manatee County football’s DNA.
Regardless of whether the outcome counts in the record books.