University School looked ready to secure another signature win for its young football program after a near-perfect first quarter.
The Suns spent the next three quarters watching host Manatee rip that opportunity away.
A 21-point first quarter lead wasn’t enough for University School as the Hurricanes rallied for a 28-24 victory Friday night that snapped the Suns’ 19-game winning streak in a matchup of nationally ranked unbeaten teams at Joe Kinnan Field at Hawkins Stadium.
University (7-1), ranked No. 13 nationally by MaxPreps, could likely play three nationally ranked teams over the span of a month. The Suns face Miami Central in two weeks and could play consensus national No.1 Miami Booker T. Washington in the second round of the Class 4A playoffs.
“Manatee is a great team, and we’re just going to continue to move forward and use this to our advantage,” University coach Roger Harriott said. “Things happened on both sides of the ball, and our guys played extremely hard.
“There are several aspects of the game we need to look at and correct before next week.”
Senior quarterback Sean White finished with 380 yards passing, beginning with a screen pass that Jordan Scarlett took 91 yards for a touchdown on the game’s first offensive play.
Two touchdown drives later, University led 21-0 stunning the near-capacity crowd.
But Manatee (9-0), ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 8A and No.17 nationally by MaxPreps, turned the momentum and eventually secured victory behind its power running game that amassed 291 yards on 61 attempts.
Manatee had two rushers finish with more than 100 yards as Trevon Walters finished with 134 yards on 30 carries and quarterback Joshua Meyer totaled 119 yards on 21 carries.
Meyer also threw a 2-yard touchdown pass with 6:07 remaining in the fourth quarter that gave Manatee its first lead. Walters followed with a two-point conversion run that gave the Hurricanes a four-point lead.
Penalties hurt University School as well. Walters’ two-pointer followed a horse-collar penalty on a previous try that gave Manatee another attempt.
University advanced deep into Manatee territory on its ensuing drive, reaching the 20-yard line. But without the chance to tie or take the lead on a field goal, University was forced to go for it on fourth-and-5. White’s pass to Sam Bruce was broken up, turning the ball over on downs and allowing Manatee to run out the clock.
“We told our guys you have to finish all four quarters,” Harriott said. “Our guys fought to the bitter end like [Manatee] did.”
University School’s start was as perfect as it could have hoped for at one of the toughest places to win in the state.
Its passing game was sharp throughout the first quarter with White finding his receivers, most often Bruce, who finished with eight catches for 116 yards.