QB Trey Burton, Venice: The long time Florida commit had one of his best games we have seen over the last three years. He finished 22-29 for 267 yards with 2 TD passes and no interceptions. He added 160 tough yards on the ground and another 3 TD's. While clearly the state's top running threat from the QB spot, he was tremendous in the passing game in this one. A 4th down play in the third quarter says it all, with Venice down one point, he fired a strike on a crossing pattern to Josh Boyle fitting the ball between two defenders and placing it precisely where Boyle could pick up some YAC. He threw 7-8 beautiful balls in this one, protected the football, and made the plays when they mattered. Manatee, despite seeing him the last two years, had no answer on how to stop him. He remains an ideal fit for the UF offense, his 'clutch' plays both with the run and through the air are what make Burton such a special player. His progression in the passing game is noticeable from junior to senior year, he is a high character young man who has a very bright future.
QB Brion Carnes, Manatee: The USF commit finished 15-25 for 236 yards with 2 TD's and 2 interceptions. Carnes had a real solid game, the two picks were part of the difference in this one, but neither was necessarily his fault. He threw several perfect balls hitting WR's in stride and made some plays with his feet, showing some elusiveness and cutting ability. All the tools are there for Brion, he has a strong, accurate arm, terrific athleticism, and pretty good size, the lone remaining ingredient is consistency. He has shown much more consistency as a senior than a junior and we like his composure in the pocket. He should fit right in at USF next year.
WR Ace Sanders, Manatee: Simply electric all night long, his score on the first possession was the game's best play. He took a slant, made two guys miss, and busted off outside for a TD. He finished with 7 catches for 180 yards and two TD's. Always ultra quick and elusive, Sanders has added some more deep speed to his arsenal. Ace has great hands and is one the state's premier route runners, he lacks ideal height so he might be a perfect fit as a slot WR and special teams monster on the next level. Sanders can't be stopped in space.
RB Mike Blakely, Manatee: The junior has added some weight since last year and has slid in nicely to Ben Axon's vacated RB spot. He has terrific acceleration, soft hands, and is just a great natural athlete. He ran for 130 yards on just 13 carries while doing a fantastic job picking up the blitz and helping contain the talented Indian DL. He has been a steady contributor since freshmen year playing a variety of positions, he seems to have found a home at RB where he brings big play ability to that spot.
TE Beckett Wales and WR Bo Ceravolo, Venice: Wales is a talented TE prospect that sports over five D-1 offers. He caught two of the TD's from Burton and at 6'3, 210+ he has solid natural size with a frame to get bigger. Wales is a pass receiving threat that is too big for DB's and too fast for LB's. Ceravolo hauled in 11 balls for 97 yards, while also doubling at CB. He is a big target that lacks deep speed, but has plus athleticism. He showed the ability to beat man coverage and make the tough catches that move the chains.
DL Quinton Pompey and Drakkar Wilson, Manatee: The two junior defensive linemen were active in the trenches all night. Pompey has the height at 6'2+ and is great athlete at that size. He could play DE or DT at the next level. Wilson is a DT prospect that plays with a ton of fight and emotion, he made the big play on a safety, his motor just never stops. Both of these guys should see plenty of interest over the next 18 months.
OL/DL Omari Phillips: It is hard to not notice this 6'6, 290 pound sophomore. The sky is the limit for this young man as he has all the tools to be a great one down the road. While he is active inside for the Indian's on defense, his future is probably at OT. Provided he continues to work on his game, this is a potential national recruit in two years.
The win for Venice sets them up to play their playoff games at home as long as they keep winning (certainly rounds 1 and 2, also the semi-finals). They have one of the state's top DL's with Brandon Wilkinson, Dino Fanti, Phillips, Brian O'Leary, and Clay Burton. Surprisingly Manatee's OL held them in check most of the night. The good news is that they won despite not getting a great night out of this group. RB Josh Boyle has been simply outstanding, he is a threat both in the run game and as a receiver. With Burton, anything is possible offensively. Last year they were in similar position and lost to Charlotte in round two, they seem to have learned from that experience and are poised to see St. Thomas in the state semi-finals.
Manatee played a pretty darn good game and it was not enough at home. They could see Venice again in round two of the playoffs, the Hurricanes will need to flip the script and win the turnover battle to have a chance. The offense can be as explosive as anyone, but the defense needs to tackle better and get better play from the LB's. There is some potential in the secondary to make big plays.