The most glaring needs that the 2012 Manatee Hurricanes face seem to be vanishing. Any team that's won a state championship will tell you, it's tough to win two in a row. The Hurricanes have never done it.
After blasting First Coast of Jacksonville for their fifth state title, Manatee quickly set its eyes on repeating in 2012. The Hurricanes return stars across the lineup. However, this spring and summer it was their task to replace 2011 leading rusher Leon Allen (868 rushing yards, 8 TDs) and leading tackler Hershel Caywood (104 total tackles). Linebacker Darius White (80 total tackles) would also have to be replaced for Manatee to seriously ponder repeating as Class 7A state champs.
Some players have emerged and they got a true test Sunday against nationally-ranked Miami Miramar. Integral to the line-up are, junior running back Trevon Walters, junior linebacker Raland Brewer and senior linebackers John Mcelfresh and Troy Griffin.
"They are the biggest pieces that we were missing from this puzzle," linebackers coach Chris Valcarcel said.
Walters had a career game against Miami Miramar's vaunted Dark Side Defense. he had six catches for 83 yards and a touchdown, along with 11 carries for 63 yards and a touchdown.
"I just try to do what they expect me to do, get the ball in the endzone, block well - we all want to get back to that state championship," Walters said.
Of course senior Anthony Lauro will get his share of carries but Lauro typically lines up outside or in the slot. The need for an in-the-backfield running back was opened and now appears to be closed.
"In our offense, running backs are key, you have to have a guy that's gonna get it done," running backs coach Rod Frazier said. "Trevon is that guy."
The Hurricanes run a 4-2-5 defense so they only had to replace two linebackers. Unfortunately, they were two of the best linebackers in school history. Both went on to Division 1 universities. Manatee started Mcelfresh and Brewer at line backer and both had rock-solid games. Griffin came in for the second half and was equally effective. According to Valcarcel, he is set on Brewer but Mcelfresh and Griffin are still competing for the position.
"This was a huge day for them (Brewer, Mcelfresh, and Griffin)," Valcarcel said.
Valcarcel was happy to get a full game out of Brewer who is coming off a knee injury.
"It felt great to get back on the field," Brewer said.
While Griffin and Mcelfresh are new to the starting lineup, neither is new to the team. Both athletes are ready to step up and do what it takes to get their team back in the big game.
"I have been in this system since I was a sophomore, I feel like I know how the defense works," Mcelfresh said.
Griffin has years of team experience as well. But because he was a backup player last season, he yearns for a championship ring as a starter.
"I want to make sure I'm a starter this year, I want a ring from a team where I'm in the starting lineup," Griffin said.
The Hurricanes are off to a great start after thumping Miami Miramar 41-6. It might have been the toughest game on their regular season schedule and it was only competitive for one half. The Hurricanes just hit a different gear in the second half; a gear that the Miramar Patriots just did not have.
"That's why we play 48 minutes," head coach Joe Kinnan said to the team after the game.
The Hurricanes have to play just 672 more minutes to fulfill their dreams of back-to-back state titles.