BRADENTON - At Manatee High School, football coach Joe Kinnan doesn't rebuild. He usually just reloads from his wealth of talent. But last year's team might be particularly difficult to duplicate.
The Manatee Hurricanes were the #1 team in the nation last season -- until the very end, losing to St. Thomas Aquinas in the state semifinals.
Now they must figure out how to replace 2-time state Class 7A Player of the Year, Cord Sandberg, who is headed to Mississippi State. “Well, we’ve got to have somebody step in and step up. And hopefully the supporting cast…everybody there will step up. You know Cord stepped in and did a great job, and so we’re hoping that one of our young quarterbacks will step in and get the job done,” says Coach Kinnan.
Not only is Sanberg gone, one of his main weapons on offense Anthony Lauro is off to college as well, headed to Akron. The defense took big hits, too. Willie Smith and Blake Keller will be playing on Saturdays (at FIU and UCF), and Derrick Calloway is off to jump start Willie Taggart's career at USF.
“It seems like we got some big places to step up in, because they were great leaders. So I gotta step up and some seniors out here gotta step up and take the place,” says defensive tackle DeMarcus Christmas.
“We’re building around DeMarcus Christmas, he’s committed to Florida State. Questions at secondary and linebacker. We have a lot of very gifted athletes; the only thing that they don’t have is they haven’t been tested yet,” says Kinnan.
Those players are in the past, so now it is time to look to the future, and this spring session will be a big part of the next step in Manatee Hurricanes football.
“In spring training, one of the main things is to figure out who can play where. Let’s get them lined up first in the right position…lets find out who the best players are, and we’ll get those guys lined up at first team,” says Kinnan.