The Florida High School Athletic Association on Sunday announced its football playoff pairings, and this season’s field features three Manatee County teams.
Those three schools — Braden River, Manatee and Palmetto — have become postseason staples and are no strangers to November football.
As district champions, Manatee (6-4) and Palmetto (9-1) will open at home, while Braden River (4-6) won’t have to travel far to face a familiar opponent.
Here’s a look ahead to the opening round of the FHSAA playoffs and the drive to December:
For the sixth straight season, the Pirates are headed to the playoffs.
And for the fifth consecutive year, Braden River will open the postseason on the road, playing at rival Palmetto at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.
The No. 8 seed in the eight-team Class 6A-Region 3 field, the Pirates reached the playoffs despite their first losing record since 2012. Braden River went 2-5 against teams that qualified for the postseason, beating Manatee and Punta Gorda Charlotte.
Of Braden River’s six losses, four came against district champions (Largo, Sarasota Riverview, St. Petersburg Lakewood and Palmetto), while another was against a district runner-up (Port Charlotte) that went 9-1 and whose only loss came against Palmetto.
Friday’s matchup will mark the program’s eighth straight road playoff game since a 2015 region final victory against Plant City. Heading into this postseason, nine of Braden River’s past 10 playoff games have been on the road.
Braden River faces a difficult task in its second trip to Palmetto’s Harllee Stadium this season: The Tigers went 5-0 at home in the regular season, outscoring their opponents 149-29.
For the 11th straight season, the Hurricanes are headed to the playoffs.
For the first time since 2015, the Canes will open the postseason at Joe Kinnan Field at Hawkins Stadium, hosting Largo Pinellas Park (6-4) at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.
The No. 3 seed in the eight-team Class 7A-Region 3 field, Manatee rebounded from its 0-3 start to win six of its final seven games and capture the 7A-District 10 championship. The Canes were dominant in securing their first district title since 2015, winning their three 7A-10 games by an average margin of 37.7 points.
Meanwhile, all four of the Hurricanes’ losses came against teams headed for the postseason: defending state champion Lakeland (No. 2 seed in 7A-Region 2), Palmetto (No. 1 seed in 7A-Region 3), Braden River (No. 8 seed in 7A-Region 3) and Kissimmee Osceola (No. 3 seed in Class 8A-Region 2).
Friday’s matchup will mark the program’s first home playoff game since a 2015 region quarterfinal victory against Orlando Oak Ridge. Manatee has played five postseason games since then, all on the road.
Pinellas Park, eliminated in the first round of the Class 7A playoffs each of the past two seasons by Palmetto, is making its third straight postseason appearance.
The Patriots started 0-2 — losing to eventual district champs Palmetto and St. Petersburg Lakewood — before winning six of their final eight games. Their other two losses also came against playoff qualifiers — Clearwater and Tarpon Springs East Lake.
For the third straight season, the Tigers are headed to the playoffs.
For the first time since 2011, Palmetto will play a postseason game at Harllee Stadium, hosting rival Braden River at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.
The No. 1 seed in the eight-team Class 6A-Region 3 field, Palmetto rolled to an 8-0 start en route to its first district championship since 2011. The Tigers were dominant against 6A-District 12 opposition, winning their four games by an average margin of 31.5 points, outscoring their foes 126-10 and posting two shutouts.
Palmetto’s lone loss was a 42-23 setback at Class 7A Tallahassee Lincoln — a three-time state champion — in Week 10.
Friday’s matchup will mark the program’s first home playoff game since a 2011 state semifinal loss to Miami Norland. Palmetto has played eight postseason games since then, all on the road.
With their 27-3 win against Braden River in Week 6, the Tigers snapped the Pirates’ 17-game winning streak against Manatee County opponents — not including forfeit losses from the 2017 season — dating to a 45-27 loss to Palmetto on Nov. 1, 2013.
This week’s schedule
Class 7A-Region 3 quarterfinals
Largo Pinellas Park at Manatee, 7:30 p.m.
Class 6A-Region 3 quarterfinals
Braden River at Palmetto, 7:30 p.m.
Sunshine State Athletic Conference semifinals
Oviedo Master’s Academy at Saint Stephen’s, 7 p.m.