Manatee Football Tradition Reaches It's Zenith
The football culture at Manatee High reaches across generations.
Manatee football is synonymous with winning. The Hurricanes have five state championships to their credit. However, this year they are in the national spotlight like never before. It's the type of year that gets anyone excited, even folks that have seen it all.
"Sure it's different this year, there's all the national press and expectations," Bill Crisp, grandfather of Cord Sandberg said.
Crisp is a Manatee High graduate and his son, Prather Crisp, was on Manatee's 1989 state championship team. Three generations of Sanberg's family are not just Manatee grads but Manatee Varsity footballers.
"There's a very strong family tradition here at Manatee," Crisp said. "It goes back a long way."
Blake Keller, Manatee's seemingly unblockable, UCF-commit defensive end is well aware of the family tradition. Blake's father, Don, is omnipresent at games taking photographs from the sideline.
"I think beacuse it's his (Blake's) senior year and they have a chance to repeat as state champs, yeah, it has a little different feel," Don Keller said.
The tradition lives even with more recent graduates. 2006 graduate Billy Dzwonkowski is also a fixture on the Hurricane sideline during games.
"Manatee football is so big now," Dzwonkowski said. "I try to get a lot of photos for kids, some that might not be going on to play Division 1 football; this might be the biggest game they play in."
Dzwonkowski talks about that, "Manatee magic" but is cautious not to look too far ahead.
Even cheerleading coach Kelly Althof gets the feeling like there is something special about Manatee football tradition.
"There's always pride at this school," Althof said. "I feel like it's gone up a level this year."
With what might have been the toughest game on their regular season schedule in the books, it's hard not to look ahead. However, that is a mistake aspiring repeat champions have made in the past.
"We have to take it one game at a time," Crisp said.
Crisp merely echoed a common sentiment.
"We're trying not to look too far ahead," said Dzwonkowski.
So for tonight they just have to get past the game at Sarasota's Riverview High School with a win. The game begins at 7:30 p.m.
If the Canes can temper their anticipation and continue playing at the level thier leve, that "Manatee Magic" may just deliver that elusive prize.