Friday night’s Manatee-Palmetto football game proved you don’t need postseason berths or district titles at stake to stoke the passion of local fans.
On a rainy night with Game 7 of the World Series on television, this Canes-Tigers matchup broke the Palmetto school attendance record, athletic director Ken Ansbro said.
Ansbro, who has been affiliated with Palmetto as an employee for 26 years and was a student, says he has never seen a larger crowd.
He won’t know the exact numbers until the school counts the cash this week, but he said he feels certain it will be the biggest payday for Palmetto High sports.
“We sold 3,000 pregame tickets and about another 2,000 or more at the gate,” Ansbro said. “The crowd was larger than the one we had in our 1975 state championship game. It shows how much people around here care about football. With all that rain, people still came, many standing along the fence, and stayed until the end. It’s great for the community.”
Ansbro estimates the crowd was 5,000-plus. When concession money is counted and game costs paid, he said the school will net around $30,000.
Bragging rights mean an awful lot to the folks around here, and right now Manatee is wearing the big target. Don’t let anyone fool you, beating the Canes is a top priority. It’s the game your neighbors and boyhood friends will remember.
This rivalry has the potential to grow even more, especially with a guy like Palmetto head coach Dave Marino, who is not afraid to speak his mind.
Marino told a local TV station after the game that Manatee doesn’t need to travel out of state to get tough competition because it can it get it right here in its own backyard.
Whew! That comment might be worth a few thousand tickets next year.
It kind of reminds us of the Steve Spurrier days at Florida when he always seemed to be getting on Florida State University and came out with his infamous quote that FSU stood for “Free Shoes University.”
It’s way too early to argue that this matchup has passed the Manatee-Southeast rivalry, but don’t think the thought didn’t cross the minds of a lot of fans in attendance.
Playing close doesn’t count. Palmetto must beat Manatee on a consistent basis before we can seriously get into that discussion. The Tigers also must beat Southeast on Friday in a game that would give them the Class 5A-District 10 title.
Speaking of Southeast, the Noles are banged up. Could we see Red Cross workers walking their sidelines for the Palmetto game?
Against Hardee on Friday, Southeast lost its top running back, Courtney Allen, and Brian Poole, who puts time in there without a drop-off, missed a portion of the game. At one time the Noles had two backups in their secondary, lost their holder and ran out of tailbacks.
Southeast head coach Paul Maecthle has done enough mixing and matching with all the injuries to warrant an honorary medical degree from Harvard.
Heroes of the week
n Most of the attention might have been focused on the Manatee-Palmetto game, but there were some individuals who deserved a hero’s welcome when they returned home from their out-of-town games.
At the top of the list is Bayshore running back Dominic Everett, who rushed for 145 yards to spark the Bruins to a 14-7 victory over DeSoto.
A week earlier, Everett was airlifted to Bayfront Medical Center after taking a hit to his lower back that left him unable to move for an extended period because the pain was so bad.
The courage he showed just getting back on the field warrants a football medal of honor. To carry the load with 29 rushing attempts is simply remarkable.
n With their top running backs unable to play, quarterbacks Myles Braxton-Johnson of Southeast and Jeren Kowalewski of Lakewood Ranch took their personal games to another level, albeit in a losing cause.
Braxton-Johnson took part in all three Southeast touchdowns and ran for a career-high 77 yards on only 10 carries, breaking numerous tackles in a gutty performance.
Kowaleski passed for 217 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another after running back McKenzie Hathaway, the fuel that drives the Mustangs offense, had to come out in the first quarter because of an illness. This is from a guy who has been geared to operate a run-first offense all season.
Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 745-2112.