The Manatee Hurricanes already have five state titles to their credit. Their sixth seems closer and closer as the regular season wraps and the post season ignites on Friday.
This year's Canes followed a scheduling route similar to the one the 2011 team followed. They scheduled a couple early-season, marquee games against nationally-ranked opponents. In 2011, the Canes fell 24-17 to Maryland's Our Lady of Good Counsel and 22-16 to New Jersey's Don Bosco Prep. The Canes did not blink the rest of the season en route to a 40-0 state championship victory over the First Coast Buccaneers.
It is possible that the 2012 team could be even better?
Well, Manatee's two nationally-ranked opponents in 2012, Miami Miramar and Miami Central fell 41-6 and 44-34 respectively. The Canes have out-scored their other regular season opponents 415-82 with many of those opposition points scored against second string defensive players, late in blowout games. If there's one word to describe the 2012 Canes, it's dominance. If there's one thing that separates the 2012 squad, even from other Hurricane teams it's, "great senior leadership" according to head coach Joe Kinnan.
"The kids have fun all the time they're playing, the coaches, too," Kinnan said.
Indeed, it seems nothing can stand in the way of the 2012 Canes and their march to Orlando. District rival Venice was supposed to give them a game, they fell 56-27. Area rival Palmetto, who played the Canes to a 29-26 nail-biter a year ago, fell 62-0 in their 2012 rematch.
Fort Pierce Central and Dwyer both gave the Hurricanes tough matchups in their 2011 playoff run and should factor into their 2012 playoff run but not at least until the regional finals. The Hurricanes biggest foe might be their own minds.
"We do have a heck of a team," senior offensive lineman Thor Miller said. "But we can't get cocky, we have to stay focused, show our ability and don't look ahead."
Miller cites having to practice against his star-studded defensive line as keeping him humble. Kinnan is not worried about his athletes overlooking opponents, either.
"We have played every game at an extremely high level," Kinnan said. "We didn't flop around at any point in any game this year."
Confidence and ability are at an all time high at Manatee. They face St.Petersburg's Northeast High tonight in the first round of regionals. They would then face either a Pinellas Park team that they beat 55-2 in last year's playoffs or a Venice team that they beat 56-27 just a few weeks ago.
Then things get tricky. The Hurricanes would most likely have to travel to play their regional final and state semifinal games should they advance. It depends on which teams make it through.
If history is any indication one thing is for sure, however the scenario shakes out, the Manatee Hurricanes will be ready to play.