Manatee (Bradenton, Fla.) has been a dominant team in the past few years, falling only to one in-state opponent in its past 34 games, St. Thomas Aquinas of Fort Lauderdale, in last year's state playoffs.
The No. 23 Hurricanes (8-0) put their record on the line in the rare position as underdog Friday, when they host another Fort Lauderdale opponent, No. 19 University (7-0).
While University is a 4A squad and Manatee an 8A team, that means little in the Sunshine State, particularly among the top teams.
"South Florida is saturated with talent," said University coach Roger Harriott. "Once you get to the 3A level and above, then teams are extremely talented."
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Harriott says he knows what to expect from Manatee. Plenty of power running and a solid defensive line. The Hurricanes have averaged 336.4 yards a game, led by running back Trevon Walters, who has rushed for 1,053 yards and nine touchdowns and by running back Johnnie Lang, who has rushed for 679 yards and eight touchdowns.
"We know a lot about them," Hariott said. "We're very fortunate to have an opportunity to play a team of their caliber. They really go to the ball on defense and their defensive line seems to be the foundation of their identity. We're looking forward to matching up with them."
University is a relative newcomer to state success. Harriott was a running back at Aquinas, then went on to play at Boston University before that school dropped football. He then played at Villanova University before returning to South Florida to start University's program in 2006.
The Suns were a runner-up for the 2B state title in 2010 and won their first state title at the 3A level last season. Manatee, however, has won six state titles and has been a state runner-up twice.
University is led offensively by quarterback Sean White, who has thrown for 1,547 and 23 touchdowns and by running back Jordan Scarlett, who has run for 709 yards and nine touchdowns.
For Manatee coach Joe Kinnan, the game at the very minimum is a chance to prepare the Hurricanes for a playoff-type opponent.
"They're a very talented football team," Kinnan said. "They're very well-coached. I think they will be a team that will be comparable to some of the better 8A opponents we will see in the playoffs."
Massey Matchups prediction: Manatee 35, University 28.
Three other big games involving Super 25 teams Friday:
No. 11 St. Joseph Regional (Montvale, N.J.) vs. Paramus Catholic (Paramus), Friday: Paramus (5-1) dropped from the Super 25 rankings after a 23-10 loss to unranked Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J.) last week. The question will be how the Paladins respond to the loss. St. Joseph Regional (5-0) has been led by quarterback Spencer Aukamp, who has thrown for 847 yards and 11 touchdowns with no interceptions. Paramus won last year's matchup, 44-35 with Jabrill Peppers rushing for four touchdowns. Massey Matchups prediction: St. Joseph Regional 37, Paramus Catholic 21.
York, S.C. vs. No. 14 Northwestern (Rock Hill, S.C.), Friday: Only one team, No. 16 Byrnes (Duncan) has come within seven points of high-flying Northwestern, but York is 8-0 this season and is averaging 55 points a game in its past five games. Northwestern, with quarterback Mason Rudolph (1,731 yards passing yards with 25 touchdowns), has the edge in a shootout. Northwestern won last year's matchup, 23-21. Massey Matchups prediction: Northwestern 42, York 25.
No. 17 Miramar, Fla., at Cypress Bay (Weston), Friday: Cypress Bay (4-3) was a state 8A runner-up last season but needs to topple the (8-0) to reach the playoffs. The teams have a common opponent as Miramar defeated St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale) 22-20 but Cypress Bay lost 35-0 to the Raiders. Miramar (8-0) also won't likely forget that the Lightning knocked them off twice last season, including a 34-14 defeat in the playoffs. Massey Matchups prediction: Miramar 28, Cypress Bay 6.