'Canes return to gridiron after difficult off-season

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BRADENTON, Fla. -  Hurricane season is underway in more ways than one.  On Friday night, the Manatee High Hurricanes returned to the field for a preseason game against the East Lake Eagles out of Tarpon Springs.

The Canes won 38-7.

Ask just about any Manatee fan and they will tell you it was a difficult off-season. Parents of players say the loss in last year's state semi-finals game stuck with their sons for a while. The Canes went in to the game undefeated, but lost to St. Thomas Aquinas 35-18.

"It was devastating," said Shonya Harris, who has a son on the team. "It took him a while to get back together."

If the loss wasn't enough, the Canes loss one of their assistant coaches after the season. Rod Frazier resigned after allegation of inappropriate conduct with a female student. A few weeks later, four former Manatee High administrators were charged with failing to report child abuse, stemming from the Frazier case.

"These kids just want to play football. They want to get to the next level. The coaches are phenomenal," said Brian Beauchamp, who has a son on the team.

"The coaches have done a great job with making sure they (players) don't get mixed up with all the hoopla," said Hines.

Even with everything that happened, The Hurricanes are expected to have another stellar season. MaxPreps.com has ranked the team, #65 in the nation and #8 in the state. USA TODAY has ranked the team #3 in Florida. 

The Hurricanes open the regular season Sunday, September 1st in Maryland, when they play Gilman High School out of Baltimore.