Mike Manasco was a program builder at Westland Hialeah.
At Palmetto, his alma mater, he’s been a program rebuilder.
In three seasons, Manasco has put the Panthers back in the postseason mix and within one victory of their first district championship since 1999.
The last time Palmetto won a district title it was coached by Jim Kroll, the second all-time winningest coach in Miami-Dade County history.
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The Panthers’ running back was Corey Kinsey, who led the county in rushing that year and helped Palmetto stun the team that had been dominant throughout the decade to that point.
Southridge rebounded after that loss and advanced to the state final where it lost a heartbreaker to Tallahassee Lincoln.
The Spartans haven’t been back to state since.
Palmetto has won only one playoff game since.
This Friday, the two will clash with the winner assured of clinching the District 16-8A championship.
11. SOUTHRIDGE (5-2) VS. 17. PALMETTO (6-0), 7:30, FRIDAY, SOUTHRIDGE.
Manasco, a former assistant coach at Southridge, knew since before the season that his Palmetto squad had a great chance of making the postseason this year.
Standouts such as running back Trey Flowers and linebacker Kenny Spiller have been huge difference makers.
The Panthers have given up only 28 points in six games, and along with Flowers, quarterback Hugh Lowson has kept the offense consistent behind receivers Ivan Thomas and Joe Hardy among others.
But Palmetto’s six opponents so far have a combined record of 10-31.
Southridge has had designs on winning state since the start of the season, and looked the part on defense.
Its offense has started to improve behind the solid running of Bentavious Thompson, but needs to play much more mistake-free football.
Andre’s pick: Southridge 14, Palmetto 7.
10. BOOKER T. WASHINGTON (5-3) VS. 12. COLUMBUS (5-2), 7, THURSDAY, TRAZ.
We very likely saw the end of Central’s bid to break a state record for consecutive state championships last week when the Rockets fell in double overtime against Northwestern.
So will Booker T. Washington, which has had a turbulent season of its own so far, also come up short of winning its fifth state title in a row?
It was at this point last year that a 4-5 Booker T. squad many thought had no chance of repeating as state champs turned things around.
Booker T. quarterback Daniel Richardson missed that game and the Tornadoes offense was no match for the Columbus defense that night without him.
Richardson has had his struggles this season as has Booker T., which has been on a rollercoaster since opening the season with wins over American Heritage (preseason) and St. Thomas Aquinas (week 1).
Richardson missed most of the first half of that game. As soon as he returned, Richardson energized the offense and nearly led Booker T. to a comeback win.
If they have solved some of their problems, Booker T. may be ready for a stretch run that includes a battle for the District 8-4A title against Edison and potential playoff foes such as Glades Central and Cocoa.
Following a Coral Park forfeit and the threat of Hurricane Matthew leading to the cancellation of a non-district game against North Miami, Columbus came back strong after a couple of unexpected bye weeks with a rout of Miami Beach.
The Explorers are out to prove they are still a contender for the Class 8A state championship.
Their defense remains solid and their offense also seems to be catching fire led by quarterback Marcelo Rodriguez, who threw four touchdown passes in the victory.
Whichever offense can find and maintain its rhythm in this one and avoid turnovers will come out on top.
Andre’s pick: Booker T. 21, Columbus 17.