Miramar vs. Bradenton Manatee Game Recap

Miramar vs. Bradenton Manatee Game Recap

Cameron Underwood
The 2012 season opener featured the Miramar Patriots taking a trip to Bradenton to take on the Manatee Hurricanes on Labor Day Weekend. After a hard fought first half, Manatee exploded in the 2nd half for 35 points, and a 41-6 victory.

While the final score may seem like this game was a blowout, the contest was actually much closer than the score may have indicated. Let’s take a look at what happened:

Bradenton Manatee:
Cord Sandberg played a good game. He’s not an explosive player who just does things you can’t comprehend (think Duke Johnson last year). What he is is a very good player, with above average skills across the board, and a phenomenal understanding of his abilities and the Manatee offense.

Sandberg’s performance was not flawless, however. He had 3 fumbles in the game. He was ruled down on the last 2 (both recovered by Miramar) by what can only be classified as questionable calls.
Throughout the game Sandberg operated the Manatee offense with controlled excellence, making all the right reads in the option running game and the controlled passing game. And, in the end, he led his team to victory. Can’t ask for much more than that.

RB/WR Anthony Lauro was billed as the other top offensive playmaker for Manatee. He had a solid game and showcased good skills, but he wasn’t the player who really hurt the Patriots.

RB Trevon Walters made a name for himself based off his stellar performance. He ran for nearly 100 yards, showed good hands as a receiver (his wheel routes were positively destructive), and scored 2 touchdowns, 1 rushing and 1 receiving. Only a Junior, Walters is sure to garner many accolades and college attention. It was he, not Sandberg, who was the difference marker for the Hurricanes.

Apart from Sandberg, Lauro, and Walters on offense, the Manatee Defense made timely stops, and caused turnovers when they had the chance. Free Safety Willie Smith had 2 interceptions, and provided solid coverage in the secondary. The linebackers and defensive backs played solidly throughout the game, but left plenty of open space for Miramar Running Backs (more on this later).

The vaunted Manatee Defensive Line played well at times. Marquis Dawsey had a solid if unspectacular game. Derrick Calloway had ½ a sack, and made a few plays behind the line. DeMarcus Christmas had a sack, and disrupted a couple inside running plays. But nothing they did can compare to the game that Blake Keller had.

Keller, a 3 star recruit committed to UCF, was the best player on the field. He blocked 2 punts (returning the 2nd for a touchdown), had 2.5 sacks, 8 tackles (4 for loss), and provided constant pressure when the Patriots looked to pass. Without a doubt, he was the MVP of this game. His big plays, especially the blocked punts, turned the momentum of the game, and gave Manatee short fields, which they converted into touchdowns in the 2nd half.

Lastly, the wrinkles employed by Coach Joe Kinnan and his staff were great. Particularly, sending an outside receiver deep down the field, and replacing that open space on the field with Walters (and Lauro a couple of times) was something that gave Manatee an advantage on the edge of the Patriot defense. That one strategic move made the rest of the Manatee playbook come alive, and enabled them to put points on the board quickly, and repeatedly, in the second half of the game.

Even in the face of defeat, there were some bright spots for Miramar. The running game, led by Alex Lee and Cameron Rigby, continually gashed the Manatee defense. Lee finished with 133 yards on just 13 carries, and showcased his top level speed. Rigby had somewhere in the neighborhood of 85 yards, and routinely made guys miss with his open-field shiftiness. Rigby was about 2 steps away from breaking a long touchdown in the first quarter, but stumbled as he crossed the Manatee 45. Huge opportunity missed there.

In the past, Miramar has employed a running game we named “Thunder and Lightning”. This year, it’s more like Lightning-squared. And, when you add in Khalil Lewis and Alex Anderson, you have a formidable group of running backs who will pose problems for every opponent Miramar faces this season.

Nick Jeanty started strong in his Patriot debut. He opened the game 5/5, and hit Sean Avant with a perfectly thrown fade for Miramar’s only touchdown on the opening drive of the game. After that strong start, Jeanty wasn’t as successful as he or the team, would have hoped. He threw 3 interceptions on the day, but let’s look at them each individually:

1. The first one was an under-thrown ball where his receiver, Tyler Williams, was open by 3 steps up the sideline. If properly thrown, Williams walks into the end zone. Since the ball was short, the defender was able to get a hand on it, and it was intercepted on the deflection.
2. The second one was a desperation heave on the last play of the first half, kind of a throw and pray play. No bearing on the outcome. Almost like a punt.
3. The third one came on a play with a low snap. Jeanty did well to get the ball off the ground, and throw cleanly. He threw to a spot, based on his pre-snap read, and didn’t see that the DBs all jumped their coverages once the ball was on the ground. Yes, he threw it, but the snap played heavily into that last pick.

Overall, I liked the poise and pocket presence I saw from Jeanty. He displayed good arm strength, and even overthrew a couple of open receivers. He showed flashes of greatness early, and also areas where he can improve. Let’s see what he does from here on out.

Gernald Hawkins got some quality work in this game, playing 3 complete drives. He was not able to put points on the board, but neither was Jeanty after the first drive of the game. Hawkins only completed one pass, a short completion to Khalil Webster. He showed good athleticism, and a live arm. I still like Jeanty as our starter, but am confident that Hawkins can be a valued asset to this team.

Wide receivers didn’t get to show too much in this game, as our passing attack is clearly still under construction. I did like what I saw from Sean Avant, who scored the only touchdown of the day for the Patriots. Additionally, Tyler Williams ran good routes and was open a few times (including on the first interception), and Dellano Whitehead also found open space in the Manatee defense. Overall, this group wasn’t really able to showcase their many talents, but they should be able to bounce back as this season progresses.

The offensive line was an ever-shifting unit, with 9 players getting snaps on the day. Guard Delvin Arnold missed a few series while icing an ankle, and others were shifted in his absence. Also, Mike Miranda and Devaughn Thomas had their struggles with shotgun snaps, especially in the second half. It’s hard to run our offense, or any offense, if you can’t get the quarterback-center exchange cleanly. This is something that will need to be worked on and fixed in practice.

Moving to defense, there were 4 players who really stood out for their stellar play: Linebackers Jermaine Grace, Ryan Samuels, and Sanka Harris, and Defensive End Shawn Stephens.

Grace, a 4 star recruit and the only returning starter on the Dark Side defense, played a great game. He had 11 tackles, 2 for loss, and was all over the field. He was a constant presence on defense, and will continue to be the leader of the team.

Samuels and Harris are both new starters, but played like veterans. Samuels had 12 tackles, and Harris had 8, along with multiple pressures to Cord Sandberg, Manatee’s QB. While they had positives, Samuels and Harris were the particular victims exploited the aforementioned wheel route adjustment from the Manatee offense. Their run defense is incredible, but their pass coverage is not to the level where they, or the coaches, would like it to be.

Stephens supplied constant pressure from the edge, and was very disciplined when faced with the option game. He had some hard tackles, and was very consistent. I liked what I saw from the 6'1" Senior.

Up front, Telvin Arnold, Ja’Quan Smith, and Darius Young played well on the inside of the defensive line. They were able to get penetration and disrupt the Manatee offense early on. In the second half, they, like many, were unable to maintain their high level of play.

Andre Godfrey and D’Kambui Greaves played alright in the secondary. They blew a couple coverages, but weren’t hurt by them thanks to a dropped touchdown pass. Coaches told them they need to be leaders in the secondary, especially with the youth at corner. While they weren’t 100% lockdown, I liked what I saw from the G-unit (Godfrey and Greaves) at safety.

At corner, Terence Gaskins played a good game, while he was out there. Gaskins provided solid coverage, good speed, and recovered a Manatee Fumble in the 2nd quarter. Gaskins was hurt on the play, unintentionally kicked in the mouth by a Manatee player during the scramble to recover the fumble. He stayed in Bradenton overnight before being able to have minor oral surgery. Administration and Coaches told me he’ll be fine, and should be returning to Miramar Monday or Tuesday. As for how long his injuries might keep him out, I have no new information as of the writing of this article.

The other corners, Darren Wilcox, Tyrek Cole, and Jeff Hill played average at best. Wilcox got caught peeking in the backfield and was beat for a 52 yard touchdown on the first play of the 4th quarter. Cole, who replaced Gaskins after his injury, played well, only allowing 2 completions to his side. He also came up to make a couple tackles in run support. Hill got good reps in the game, and should continue to play a large role this year.

And now, the pink elephant in the room.

Special Teams.

When you miss an extra point, and have 2 punts blocked, and 2 more ALMOST blocked, there are obviously problems. I know there are a lot of new players on the special teams units, but I would like to see more starters playing in this vital 3rd phase of the game.

Little details, single plays/calls/non-calls in a game like this, against a top opponent, can turn the tide of the game. In this game, there was 1 call that I look to as being THE MOMENT the game turned from being a tough, tightly contested game into Manatee’s favor.

Tied as 6 to start the 2nd half, Manatee was facing 3rd and 6 on their own 45. Sanka Harris tackled Trevon Walters for a short gain, and was called for a personal foul for a “late hit”, although he was already bringing Walters to the ground before crossing the sideline. That call allowed Manatee’s offense to stay on the field, and that drive resulted in the first touchdown Manatee scored on the day.

While that call was not the reason Manatee won, or Miramar lost, it was a huge turning point in the game.

Take that for what you will.

Where do we go from here?
Last year, when I started the Miramar Sports Blog, we won every game until the State Championship game. I wrote recaps for all games but the State Championship game. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it with all the emotions I felt.

But now, after a loss, we have to look at what we can do to change the game, and return to the winning side of things.

1. Address special teams. 1 missed Extra point. 1 Kickoff out of bounds. 2 blocked punts. 2 more punts that were THISCLOSE to being blocked. This MUST be priority #1 for Coach Cogdell and the staff.
2. Center-Quarterback exchange. Under center, we’re fine. Shotgun or Pistol formations? Not so much. Can’t run offense if you can’t start the play properly.
3. Consistency and execution. Jermaine Grace said it best when interviewed by Andre Fernandez of the Miami Herald:
“We’re a first- and second-quarter team right now. We have to focus on learning how to finish all four quarters.”​
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
4. Stay with the Run Game. Look. We have 5 quality running backs (Alex Lee, Cameron Rigby, Khalil Lewis, Alex Anderson, and #32 E [don’t know his full name….they just call him E]). 6 if you count FB Malik Mapps. Our running game gashed Manatee’s defense time and time again. Running the ball has many ancillary benefits for the team. What's that mean? RUN. THE. BALL.
5. Stop cheating on Defense. Every team has tendencies that you can start to identify. If you OVERREACT (or cheat) to stop something, that leaves you vulnerable for a counter or constraint play (plays that are designed to work when the defense cheats). We got caught cheating on the last 3 Manatee touchdowns. I think that says it all.
Obviously, nobody likes to lose. It highlights your errors, and puts pressure on your team to recover. Manatee is the first team to score 40+ points against the Patriots since DeSoto (TX) in the 2010 season opener, a game Miramar lost on the road 42-41.

This game is very similar to games we've played recently vs. St. Thomas Aquinas. Once you make a mistake, the opposition is deadly at making you play. If you spoke to me about the game, then you know that's what I'd been saying for the longest time. And, true to form, we made mistakes and Manatee made us pay.

I know the final score is ugly. I know that there are a lot of people (Miramar fans, Miramar haters, and journalists) who are writing us off, and have only negative things to say. Multiple journalists (who shall remain nameless) made snarky comments to what I'm about to say:

This game was not as lopsided as the score indicated.

After that personal foul call which led to Manatee's first touchdown, every single Miramar mistake ended with the same 2 words: Touchdown Manatee. They only drove the field on our defense 2 times. They hit a long pass when the DB was caught cheating. They had multiple short fields to drive for points. When you put it together, this game was really only a few plays from being a very different one than it ended up being.

Overall, there were positives and negatives. And while we may be left looking at all the negatives (of which, there are plenty), I believe that with a little focused attention in the 5 areas I outlined above, we'll be just fine.

Those are my (long-winded) thoughts. What are yours?

Follow me on twitter @MiramarSports, and check out the Miramar Sports Blog at www.miramarsports.blogspot.com for more great Miramar-centric content

Comments (8)

******** beat us for the state title my senior year at Southridge
I only got to watch bits and pieces of it, but I really liked what I saw of Grace while I was there. He was clearly the most active player on the D and the two teams were about as athletic as you will find in HS. He's a surefire take from what I saw.
I watched a lot of that game and Keller was very impressive. Def a DE I wouldn't mind us taking a look at. Another kid who stood out to me was Alex Lee. Very nice back. I am not sure his measurables etc, but he looked fast, and had nice balance and vision.
Excellent write-up, Cameron. Tremendous detail.