Schedule shuffle means strong fall games

Defending Class 7A state champion Manatee (Bradenton, Fla.) was forced to adjust its schedule after a proposed game with Skyline (Sammamish, Wash.) fell through.

Unfortunately, the Hurricanes will not have the opportunity to take a cross-country trip to Seattle and take on a team that features ESPN 150 quarterback Max Browne.

However, Manatee head coach Joe Kinnan didn’t want to replace Skyline with just any opponent and was able to get in contact with Class 6A state runner-up Miami Central for a game on Sept. 15.

“It just worked out on both ends as they were looking for a game and we needed one as well,” Kinnan said. “It’s going to be a great challenge for our team and an exciting game to play in front of our fans.”

Miami Central features arguably the best running back tandem in the state with Class of 2014 prospects Joseph Yearby and Dalvin Cooke. Yearby currently has verbal offers from Alabama, Florida, FSU, Miami and West Virginia. He and Cooke combined for over 3,000 yards rushing in 2011.

The Rockets have also become one of the state’s premier programs in churning out FBS talent. In the past two seasons 19 players from the program have signed with FBS schools.

Manatee is equipped for another big season behind four-star quarterback Cord Sandberg. He will orchestrate an offense that features speedsters Anthony Lauro and Jajuan Pollock.

However, the strength of the Hurricanes lies in their defensive line. Derrick Calloway (6-1, 300) has nearly a dozen offers and a top group of Miami, USC, Arkansas, Ohio State, Texas A&M and Texas Tech.

Calloway’s teammate up front, Class of 2014 prospect Demarcus Christmas (6-3, 285), has established himself as a top junior in the state after a dominating performance during last year’s state title victory over First Coast (Jacksonville, Fla.).

Manatee may have another opening in September if a proposed game with Friendship Academy (Washington, D.C.) falls through. The likely replacement for that Week 1 game would be Miramar.

Cocoa (Fla.) is partially responsible for pairing Manatee and Miami Central together as head coach John Wilkinson put Central head coach Telly Lockette in touch with Kinnan.

Central and Cocoa were originally slated to meet in Week 2 in the second year of a two-game deal but both sides were looking for different opposition if the opportunity came around.

With Central moving to play Manatee, Cocoa had the opportunity to take a game with University School (Davie, Fla.) for that week. Cocoa features ESPN 150 athlete Tarean Folston and University School is lead by ESPN 150 wide receiver Jordan Cunningham. Both players will be participating in the 2013 Under Armour All-America Game.

"We wanted the best big schools to play each other and the best small schools to play each other," said Wilkinson. "It worked out for everyone involved and it's a great thing for the state of Florida."

Cocoa will host Hillsborough (Tampa, Fla.) in the opening week of the 2012 season.

"They were supposed to play Plant but Plant wanted to play in an event in New Orleans," Wilkinson said. "So we jumped in and took the game with Hillsborough so they could that."

Plant will travel to New Orleans as part of a Sugar Bowl September showcase where the 2011 Class 8A champions will play John Curtis (River Ridge, La.) or St. Paul (New Orleans).