The nationally-ranked Hurricanes routed the Sailors in their meeting last season, handing Sarasota a 51-9 loss. Manatee went on to finish 13-1, while Sarasota (4-6) continued to struggle with reaching the .500 mark.
This season, the Hurricanes are still heralded as an elite high school football team – they're ranked third in the state and 23rd in the nation. They've won their first three regular season games with a combined 62 point differential. And on the opposite side of the field, the Sailors have still yet to truly prove anything. But at 2-1, with Head Coach Ed Volz returning 23 seniors as well as a new coaching staff, Sarasota is heading in the right direction.
On Friday, these two teams will square off again, with expectations on both sides being that the game will be much more highly contested than last season's drubbing.
“I expect us to improve and compete better than we did last year,” Volz said.
“We expect their best shot. Everyone we play in the area, it's like we have a big target on our back,” said Manatee Head Coach Joe Kinnan.
Sarasota may be getting Manatee at just the right time, too. Though the Hurricanes are undefeated, those wins haven't come all that easy. Last week against Friendship, the Hurricanes turned the ball over twice within their own 20. And they had a combined three interceptions in their last two contests.
Injuries to key players is an added concern for Coach Kinnan's team. Senior RB Trevon Walters – a Missouri commit – and senior WR Brodrick Yancy – committed to Temple – are both nursing injuries and their playing status will be game-time decisions.
As such, Kinnan is looking for his defense to step up in a big way again. And while the Hurricane offense may be hampered by injury, Coach Volz is still focused on keeping his opponent's offense waiting around on the sideline.
“If you can run the football, you can control the clock and keep their offense off the field,” Volz said. “Our offensive line needs to play well.”
The Sailors themselves are trying to rebound from a tough matchup last week. In what looked to be an open-and-shut victory against Lincoln, the Sailors faltered down the stretch and were dealt a 35-27 loss.
“Do I think we should be 3-0? If you lose a game, you lose a game, so no I don't think we should be 3-0,” Volz said. “(But) I think we have the confidence of a 3-0 football team.”
Sarasota will need that confidence going into Friday's game if they're going to beat the five-time state champions.
“There hasn't been too many teams in the area, let alone in the state, to beat them,” Volz acknowledged. “A win would be tremendous.”
The Hurricanes view each game on the schedule as being equally important, as any true powerhouse team does. However, Sarasota will be a more than legitimate test early in the season for Manatee to prove their worth as the state's third best team.
“Our kids are focused on the game at hand,” stressed Kinnan. “We've been battle-tested here early.”
Kick-off in Sarasota for this game of the week is set for 7:30 p.m. ABC 7 will bring you additional coverage of the game on Friday's 6 p.m. broadcast, with stats and highlights on Football Friday Night at 11:15 p.m.