Field Goal(s) – 3 points from Manatee County’s Week Zero

Week One Schedule:
Braden River at Bayshore
Jesuit at Lakewood Ranch
Manatee at Hoover (AL)
Palmetto at Fort Myers
Saint Stephen’s at Windermere Prep
Southeast at Nature Coast Tech
Southwest Florida Christian at Bradenton Christian

All-in-all, things look pret-ty, pret-ty gooood…
Manatee rolls, Braden River and Palmetto look strong, Southeast hit us with a possible breakout performance and Lakewood Ranch, although a little bit sluggish to start should be fine as long as they can protect the ball and make the stops they need on defense. The Mustangs can run the ball, but getting some balance on offense would sure go a long way to helping their cause. Southeast rolled over Leto, but…stiffer tests await and what’s not to like about the performances of the ‘Canes, Pirates and Tigers? Those top three set out to accomplish some things and boy, did they accomplish a few things. Manatee’s dominance over Largo gives plenty of reasons to believe their game with Hoover could be a great one, Braden River used quick strike + ground-and-pound to turn-in a very impressive performance versus River Ridge, and Palmetto’s performance against Booker was outright shock-and-awe. The records change from 0-0 this week and four of the top five have some stiff match-ups on their hands.

FWIW, the top five in the county should begin the season like this…
Manatee, Braden River, Palmetto, Lakewood Ranch and Southeast? –The top three are very easy to slot at this point, but is Friday’s performance good enough to put Southeast ahead of the Mustangs? Not for now, it’s about perspective on that one. Although the Mustangs still have some questions to be answered at the QB position, that 20-16 loss at the hands of Sarasota-Riverview actually bears a little more weight than Southeast’s destruction of Leto. The Mustangs had a chance to win their game at the end after falling down 20-0 against a Riverview team that isn’t a cupcake by any stretch of the imagination. Not that Leto is a cupcake either, they’re just little more put together than the Falcons are at this point. Although it may not take very long to prove, the ‘Noles still have to prove (nonetheless) they’re headed in an opposite direction from their 1-9 record last season. Lakewood Ranch hosts Jesuit this week and Southeast travels up to Brooksville to face Tech. Both opponents hang their hats on the run game and do it well we might add. They will test the physicality of these squads and give us A MUCH better representation of what’s going on for Ranch and Southeast.

Small-ball, is still good-ball…
Bradenton Christian and Saint Stephen’s are building momentum to do some big things perhaps. The Panthers were 5-5 last season but they’ve got a chance to re-write history and make the playoffs for the first time in the programs nine-year existence. They’re in 2A-5 with Carrollwood Day, Cambridge Christian, Seffner Christian and Sarasota’s Out-of-Door Academy and could make some noise if they can tighten up some of the defensive holes that plagued them against CDS and Cambridge in which they gave up an average 51 points to those teams. Hillsborough and Pinellas folks that saw BC’s ATH on offense and LB on defense Brett Gerber (6-3/200) and RB Zack Cooper (5-8/180) know that the Panthers don’t lack for talent. Saint Stephen’s gets their biggest game of the season right off the bat against Orlando’s Windermere Prep that was 10-0 last season in the Sunshine State Athletic Conference, but the Falcons have a chance to do even better than their record-setting 7-3 mark from 2014 with the likes of sophomore QB Fred Billy (5-10/182) who produced over 1,500 yards ground and air for Saint Stephen’s as a freshman and Class of 2017 RB Jordan “Ace” Murrell (5-10/170) who could have a breakout season. The Falcons racked up 3,100+ yards of offense in 2014 and might not skip a beat in 2015.