Spring football roundup: Parrish, Mooney, BC win; Sarasota, Palmetto, Manatee, Bayshore fall

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A roundup of 2024 spring high school football games played by Manatee and Sarasota County programs on Thursday, May 16.

Ocala Vanguard 35, Manatee 27

BRADENTON – Jacquez Green is fresh off his most successful season as the head coach of the Manatee High football team, finishing 9-3 with a trip to the regional semifinals.

Now, he’s embracing the challenge of sustaining that success after losing his first senior class.

Joe Kinnan Field at Hawkins Stadium was littered with rising sophomores and rising juniors for the Hurricanes in a 35-27 loss to Vanguard (Ocala) in the team’s spring game on Thursday night.

But even though Manatee lost, Green said he’s still encouraged by what he saw in a game where the final score didn’t matter.

“Last year was my first senior class,” Green said. “Those guys were sophomores when I first took over as head coach. They ended up being some good players. We ended up signing 10 out of 18 of them to colleges. It was a good group. They listened well, they never got in trouble, they made good grades.

“They had good leadership, too. That was the main thing. We’re trying to get this group to have that same type of leadership.”

Though many new faces were suiting up for Manatee, some familiar ones shined early and often.

Rising-senior quarterback Andrew Heidel, an Army commit, played the first three quarters and helped Manatee jump out to an early lead – throwing touchdown passes of 30 and 70 yards to rising-senior Jalen Bryant and rising-senior AJ Causey in the first quarter.

Heidel threw a pick-six to Vanguard athlete Nasir Allen in the closing minutes of the second quarter, but that was his only blemish on the night. He finished with 14-of-20 passing for 159 yards as he was often forced to make plays on the run behind an offensive line featuring three rising sophomores. He was sacked four times and lost 22 yards on a mistimed snap.

The run game suffered the most from the inexperience.

Rising sophomore running back Keith Smith shouldered the load in the backfield, rushing seven times for four yards while two other ball carriers – rising junior Malik Bryant and rising senior Jamari Parker – combined for five rushes for two yards.

“We’ll get (the run game) going,” Green said. “I really was working more on fundamentals in spring practice. We weren’t doing much scheme-wise. But we still have to run the ball better than we ran the ball tonight. I think in a real game, I probably would have thrown the ball more with Andrew and thrown more quick-game stuff. But I wanted to see what the lineman would do and get some stuff on film that we can work on in the summertime.”

Manatee also lost several players from a star-studded defense from last fall that included defensive linemen Tyreek’e Robinson (UCF) and Tristan Titus (Warner), middle linebackers Max Freeman (Ave Maria) and Elijah Perry (Warner), outside linebacker Damontez McDowell (Stetson), cornerback Daron Jean (USF) and safety Christian Johnson (Edward Waters).

Some mainstays, like tackle-leader Ean Johnson-Kelley, a three-star rising-senior defensive lineman, and tackle-for-loss leader Alvoid Kennon, another rising-senior defensive lineman, return this season.

Johnson-Kelley and Kennon were often in the backfield against Vanguard, each finishing with one sack apiece. Rising senior linebackers Kavion Smith and Khavion Williams were also in on the action, scooping up first-quarter fumbles.

“It’s hard to replace (the defense) because that was an experienced group,” Green said. “All of those guys started their junior year and came back their senior year. It’s hard to replace them, but some of the pieces we have are elite pieces with Ean and Alvoid up front. We changed up the scheme a little bit to match what kind of skill set we have on the back end. We’ll be alright.”

Though the lead was within reach for Manatee up until the final minute, Green opted to play backups for most of the fourth quarter.

Some late-game highlights were rising junior defensive back Jermiah Paterson scooping up a batted-down lateral pass for an 80-yard fumble-return touchdown and rising sophomore quarterback JP Suranto hitting rising sophomore Jok Harris for a 60-yard touchdown in the closing minutes.

Green is enthused about what his new players can do, but they’ll face a stiff test this coming fall against a schedule that includes Lake Minneola (9-4), Buccholz (13-1, 4S state semifinal finish), Palm Beach Gardens Benjamin (8-3) and a grudge match against Riverview (8-5, regional final finish), the team that ended Manatee’s season last year.

“We’ll be able to sustain it,” Green said. “We have good players. We just have to coach them up and get more experience for the guys on the field. We probably won’t be as good as (last year’s) class was early in the year, but I think this group is very coachable, so they’ll get better and better as the season goes along.”

– Vinnie Portell

Bradenton Christian 27, Bayshore 6

BRADENTON – Bradenton Christian dominated the first half of its spring football matchup with Bayshore and rolled to a 27-6 victory over the Bruins Thursday night.

The Panthers needed only five plays on their opening drive to move the length of the field and score on a 35-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Caden Orr to Judah Galessiere. Then, after a fumble on Bayshore’s first offensive play gave BC possession at the Bruin 22, Colton Dempsey ran it in from 6 yards out and the Panthers had a 13-0 lead before three minutes had elapsed.

It took until the middle of the second quarter for the Bruins to record their first first down. BC was able to add another touchdown on a 37-yard pass from Orr to a wide-open Jackson McBride for a 20-0 halftime lead. The Panthers piled up 222 total yards in the first half while holding Bayshore to just 54.

“I’m very pleased with our effort, especially,” Bradenton Christian coach Phillip Spess said. “They played for each other, they did the right thing and they did their best. This is a group of guys that love each other and that’s just what we’re trying to continue to do.”

Ott completed 8 of his first 10 passes before cooling off in the second half. The rising senior finished 10-of-22 for 160 yards, completing passes to six different receivers. “Caden is a leader,” Spess said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing him continue to grow this summer in that leadership role. I thought our receivers did well. I thought they blocked well on the edge. Especially the little things, like being able to get lined up and knowing what we’re supposed to be doing at all times. They did a phenomenal job.”

Bayshore alternated between Jamari Smith and Ace Luther at quarterback, and while the Bruins moved the ball better in the second half, fumbles and an interception by BC’s Jordan Sanders kept the Bruins out of the Panther end zone until the final minute.

“I’m very thankful for how our guys have bought into our system on defense,” Spess said. “I’m very pleased with our attention to detail and how we focus on fundamental things. If we can’t get off blocks and make tackles and get the football back, we’re not going to be very good on defense. But these guys have focused in on those fundamentals and letting everything take care of itself.”

A 31-yard scramble by Ott set up the Panthers final touchdown, a 9-yard run by Dempsey, who led BC with 59 yards rushing on 17 carries.

Meanwhile, Bayshore coach Jamaal Sanders was unhappy with his team’s effort.

“I thought they kicked our butt up and down the field,” he said. “And it will continue to be like that until our guys start taking things seriously. We’re never going to turn the curve on this program when you don’t have guys that commit to what their craft is. So, no offense to BCS, I’m not going to take anything away from them. They came out and did what they were supposed to do and we didn’t take care of what we were supposed to do and that’s the reality of it.”

Davion Johnson, who led the Bruins with 78 rushing yards, got Bayshore on the scoreboard with a 14-yard run with 13 seconds left in the game, but Sanders couldn’t find any positives to take away from the 21-point loss.

“I guess we got a game in and we’ll be able to evaluate the film, but as far as our play, just looking at it from the naked eye, it was horrible,” he said. “And that’s being nice. BCS just came out and took us to the woodshed. They did what they were supposed to do, and we didn’t handle business, so that’s us, not them.”

– Bruce Robins

Port Charlotte 43, Palmetto 7

PALMETTO – To say the Palmetto High School football team is in a period of turmoil is an understatement. They have yet to find a permanent head coach and were not able to put together a scrimmage that might have helped them immensely

On Thursday in its spring game against Port Charlotte, Palmetto showed it has a long way to go to catch up to a team that has aspirations of a deep playoff run.

The Pirates’ defense gave the Tigers very little, and with the help of two Ike Perry touchdowns and 185 yards rushing, they coasted to a 43-7 victory Thursday in the annual spring game.

Interim coach Jim Webb, who spent five years as special teams coach, took into account that they were playing a potential state power and was pleased with the effort they gave and the signs of progress they made

“We played hard. We did some good things. I thought we would be a little more competitive. We had a lot of change of possessions on defense. We got off the field a lot, but we had to right back out there because we couldn’t sustain any offensive drives,” Webb said. “We were on the field a little longer than we wanted to be.”

Port Charlotte took charge early and took advantage of a short field on its first possession, with Perry dashing 33 yards for a touchdown and a quick 7-0 lead.

Palmetto moved the football on its second drive, with Dylan Maclain hitting Dylan Wester on a 37-yard strike into the Pirates’ red zone. However, an interception thwarted that drive.

That proved costly as the Pirates drove 80 yards on nine plays, with Perry scoring from the one to make it 14-0 late in the first quarter.

Karsyn Barhausen kicked two field goals in the second quarter to make it 20-0 at the half, and Logan Flaherty, the transfer from Charlotte, ran for a score and later found Jaylen Henry on a nine-yard touchdown pass to make it 34-0.

Maclain, who struggled much of the night while throwing for 141 yards, finally got the Tigers offense awakened, hitting Simeon Matt on a 12-yard touchdown pass to get the Tigers on the board, but Juluis Roach scored later for the Pirates and Barghausen kicked his third field goal late.

Webb said despite the flashes of offense, Palmetto is going to have to find an identity on offense.

“We need a philosophy and scheme we can hang our hats on. We put in some concepts during spring break. We need to find a way to be effective moving the ball and be more precise on defense,” Webb said. “We were there. We hit Ike Perry, but we didn’t bring him down.”

― Chuck Ballaro

Clearwater 10, Cardinal Mooney 7

Cardinal Mooney 28, St. Petersburg 21

SARASOTA – Seeing his team in a game for the first time since winning a state title, Cardinal Mooney head coach Jared Clark was happy with what he saw on Thursday night during the spring jamboree involving his Cougars, Clearwater, and host St. Petersburg High.

“I’m very proud of the work we put in during the spring,” he said. “We have a great group of young players and they were able to get a lot of reps and valuable game experience. We did some really good things, and we have some things we need to get better at. We had a short spring and we will continue to improve over the summer. I love our kids. We have great culture and it’s because of them.”

Parrish 21, Osceola 0

SARASOTA – Bulls head coach Dylan Clark, whose team went 7-4 last year in his first season in charge, couldn’t find much to fault in a spring shutout victory over host Osceola.

“A great team win,” he said. “Our defense played really well in all aspects, led by Ashton Springfield, Gage Cameron, John Keene, and Sean Crowley.” The Bulls got rushing TDs from Cameron Houston and Mar-Keyon Maxwell, and a receiving score from Jermaine Edwards.

St. Petersburg Lakewood 58, Sarasota 0

SARASOTA – First-year head coach Amp Campbell didn’t mince words after his Sailors were humbled by host Lakewood.

“It wasn’t a good showing,” the former Riverview Ram assistant said. “Got a lot of kids who have never played football before. Very disappointed. We have a lot of work to do. Today was day 14 for us. I’ve got to find a way to get these kids to understand the game of football and understand situations. Our summer program will be very important.”

– Doug Fernandes

This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Sarasota and Manatee County 2024 spring high school football results

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