EAST LAKE — Bradenton Manatee turned three East Lake mistakes into 16 points and never trailed Friday night, beating the host Eagles 26-17.
East Lake gave away the ball at its own 5-yard line with fumbles on two of its first three possessions. Nick Pennebacker's 22-yard field goal and Kavious Price's 5-yard touchdown spotted Manatee its early 9-0 lead.
The third mishap came in the third quarter when Nashon Smith blocked a Daniel LaCamera punt and returned it 38 yards for a score that put the Hurricanes ahead 23-14.
“I'm not excited about it but I'll sleep tonight,” East Lake coach Bob Hudson said. “We gave them two five-yard fields to start off the game and there's nine points out of it and we lost by nine points.”
The Eagles began their 2013 campaign in similar fashion, losing a preseason Kickoff Classic at Manatee 38-7 before rattling off 13 straight victories that took them to the Class 7A state semifinals. Senior linebacker Carson Lydon acknowledged the team's disappointment with Friday night's result, but said the Eagles will learn from their mistakes and start the regular season strong.
“It sucks and it hurts and it's going to make us work a lot harder, but it doesn't faze us,” he said. “We've got a long season ahead of us. These stats aren't going on MaxPreps, these stats aren't counting for anything and this loss doesn't mean anything.
“We've got a long season ahead of us and we have to have amnesia after this. We can correct our mistakes tomorrow and we're going to forget about it.”
Despite the final score, East Lake showed glimpses of its potential on both sides of the ball.
Senior QB Jake Hudson threw for 196 yards on 15 of 26 attempts, including a 54-yard scoring strike late in the second to sophomore Bryce Miller (5 catches for 108 yards). Star receiver George Campbell pulled in four catches for 52 yards but stayed on the side line in the second half with an ice back on his right hand and wrist. One of the nation's top recruits, Campbell's injury was minor and he didn't return as a precautionary measure, Coach Hudson said.
The Eagles biggest struggle Friday night was moving the ball on the ground. Manatee's talent defensive front limited East Lake to 39 yards rushing and 12 net yards when taking into account yardage lost from three sacks.
“We knew that offensively we've got some work to do, but we came through, the kids grew up a lot tonight and that's what this game's all about,” Coach Hudson said, adding that the offensive line played without its starting right guard.
Production from the backfield was not an issue for run-heavy Manatee. The Hurricanes rolled up 240 yards on 42 attempts, led by Johnny Lang's 30 totes for 138 and a touchdown. Manatee did tack on 66 of those yards during its final drive, playing with most of its starters against East Lake's second-team defense.
Considering the Eagles' recent run of overall success, Lydon said the defense expects more out of itself.
“We're not even close right now,” he said. “I don't want to sound cocky or anything but I believe in our front seven a lot more than that. We can play a lot better. We didn't play responsibility football. I promise you we will get our stuff together and be a lot better next week.”
On top of flying around the field defensively Friday, it was Lydon that put East Lake on the board with a 4-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Manatee struck right back with a 6-yard Lang score on its next possession to go up 16-7.
The Eagles appeared ready to head into halftime facing that deficit after a 15-yard personal foul pushed their last drive back to their own 46-yard line. But that's when Miller slipped by his defender down the left sideline and Hudson hit him in stride for a 54-yard touchdown that cut Manatee's lead to 16-14.
“Bryce is a good player,” Coach Hudson said. “He's a sophomore. He was the third receiver last year when we brought him up mid-year. He's a heck of a football player.”
Following Nashon Smith's blocked punt, recovery and 38-yard touchdown scamper, both teams' final scoring was limited to trading fourth-quarter field goals. LaCamera hit from 35 yards out early in the period and Pennebacker closed the night with a 22 yarder.
NEXT WEEK: East Lake opens its regular season next Friday night at home against nearby rival Palm Harbor University. The Hurricanes beat Jesuit on Thursday night, 40-21
MAN - 9 – 7 – 7 – 3 --- 26
EL - 0 – 14 – 0 – 3 --- 17
MAN – Pennebacker 22-yard FG. – 1st Quarter (5:56)
MAN – Price 5-yard run. PAT kick failed – 1st Quarter (5:11)
EL – Lydon 4-yard run. PAT kick (LaCamera) – 2nd Quarter (6:09)
MAN – Lang 6-yard run. PAT kick (Pennebacker)– 2nd Quarter (3:33)
EL – Miller 54-yard pass from Hudson. PAT kick (LaCamera) – 2nd Quarter (0:10)
MAN – N. Smith 38-yard blocked punt return. PAT kick (Pennebacker) – 3rd Quarter (7:438)
EL – LaCamera 35-yard FG – 4th Quarter (11:54)
MAN – Pennebacker 26-yard FG – 4th Quarter (3:56)
MAN – Lang (30-138, TD), James (6-85), Price (4-20, TD).
EL – Frierson (6-30), Cuoto (7-5), Lydon (3-(-1), TD).
MAN – Colgiovanni (11-216 for 73).
EL – Hudson (15-26 for 196, TD).
MAN – Price (4-46), Goldy (3-12).
EL – Miller (5-108, TD), Campbell (4-52), Okuniewski (2-21).