MANATEE COUTY -- The Venice Indians won a thrilling last-moment victory in round one, but their reward is a return to Hawkins Stadium where they were beaten by Manatee 52-19 earlier this year. A 49-yard filed goal in the 4th quarter lifted Palmetto over Hardee in the regular season 16-13, the Wildcats' only loss of the year, which will be fresh in their mind when they return to face the Tigers tonight.
Trent Miller gets off a pass under Manatee pressure
photo by Page Moore 941.518.4600
Tre Burton had Manatee's number while quarterbacking the Indians, but since the Venice sensation departed for Gainesville, it's once again been all 'Canes in this District 10 rivalry. Venice drove right down the field and scored on their first possession when these two teams met on a particularly cold night in October, but it was all Manatee after that.
Miami-bound RB Danny Dillard has been stellar again this season for Venice, but hasn't been able to get his game in gear against the 'Canes for two straight years. Unless the 6'2 215-pound RB is able to hit the holes more effectively Friday night, the Indians will have to rely heavily on the play of mobile QB Grant Flessner, whose gutsy performance fell short last month. 55-19 doesn't bode well for the Indians, but this is Manatee-Venice, so expect Coach Peacock to use that loss to motivate seniors to try and erase the memory of that embarrassing loss with an upset win.
Hardee and Palmetto played on that same 50-some degree night in week 7, which it should be noted was the first time any area team played in cold weather all season, and every fan knows that the cold does funny things in Florida football. Palmetto's defense was strong that night, but their offense struggled to move the ball down field and it was probably star QB Trent Miller's worst performance of the season.
Miller and the Palmetto team that nearly knocked off Manatee and went on to beat Southeast looked infinitely better. In fact, it seemed that the hard-fought victory over Hardee really gave them their confidence and helped them elevate their play to the next level. Tiger fans need to hope that dynamic passing game shows up this time and RB Josh Hicks' ankle holds up for what might be their toughest game on the way to a second state championship.
High School Football Playoffs
Friday 7:30 p.m.
Hardee @ Palmetto
Venice @ Manatee