The Manatee Hurricanes 2012 season came to heart-breaking end Friday night in Fort Lauderdale as they fell 35-18 to the St. Thomas Aquinas Raiders.
The Raiders scored on their opening drive and again on their third possession to carry a 14-3 lead into halftime. The Hurricanes picked up the pace on offense in the second half but simply could not contain the Raider offense or close out Raider offensive drives.
"We couldn't get off the field on third down," said Joe Kinnan, Manatee's head coach. "We couldn't get off blocks and make plays."
The Hurricanes scored both of their touchdowns in the second half. The first was an eight-yard touchdown run from freshman Johnnie Lang. The second was an 11-yard completion to senior Ja Juan Pollock.
However, the defense counld not stop Aquinas as the Raiders scored three more touchdowns, the last a 22-yard run from junior Mardre London that extinguished the last embers of hope for the Hurricanes. London punished the Hurricanes in the second half, gaining 99 yards on the ground and wearing down the defense.
The game was not without bright spots.
Probably the best play of the game from either team came in the first quarter when senior defensive end Blake Keller broke into the Raider backfield, sacked Raider quarterback John O'Korn, and jarred the ball loose. Keller had enough presence of mind to scoop up the loose ball and return it all the way to the Raider 20-yard line.
The Hurricanes failed to convert the turnover when they missed a 37-yard field goal. It would be their last chance at scoring off of a turnover. The Raiders fumbled later in the first half but they recovered it. It was that kind of a night for Manatee.
The Canes first trip into the red zone only yielded three points. The Canes got caught out of position on the Raiders second drive and O'Korn rolled out on a bootleg and walked into the end zone. On a third-and-11 on their next drive, senior quarterback Cord Sandberg slipped past two defenders and got out of the pocket but couldn't complete the pass.
The Canes played a much better second half but they still could not contain the Aquinas offense.
The usually in-synch passing game failed them. Senior quarterback Cord Sandberg threw 34 passes, 15 of them fell incomplete. Senior Anthony Lauro was absent and the running game was further decimated when junior leading rusher Trevon Walters was injured in the first quarter.
Lang filled in respectably and picked up 74 yards of offense for the Canes. Pollock picked up his game in the second half, scoring the 11-yard touchdown and then scoring the two-point conversion. That cut the lead to 28-18 but there was just not enough time left and not enough gas left in the defense to stop the Raiders in their next possession.
Sandberg finished 19 of 34 for 182 yards and a touchdown. No Hurricane running back broke 50 yards on the night and the team rushed for just over 100.
Keller and fellow senior defensive end Marquis Dawsey had good nights. Dawsey stopped three plays for a loss, not including a sack, but the middle of the Hurricane defense, usually dominant and overpowering, surrendered big runs right through the middle. The Raiders finished with over 300 yards rushing and 473 total yards of offense.
"It's disappointing to go out in this fashion, to not play as well as we could have," Kinnan said.