Despite playing wide receiver in the NFL, Jacquez Green’s coaching career has revolved around a defensive focus.
He previously was part of coaching staffs with defensive-minded head coaches, and it’s something he’s brought with him in his time leading the Manatee Hurricanes.
It means putting his best athletes on defense.
On Friday night at Joe Kinnan Field at Hawkins Stadium, that stout defense paved the way in the Hurricanes’ 28-20 victory over Braden River.
“They have four Division I cats on their defensive line and their corners are good,” Braden River head coach Curt Bradley said. “When you can stop the run and get after the quarterback with only four and got two corners that can play man coverage, it makes everybody else’s job on defense pretty easy. So the linebackers don’t have to get too aggressive, but their corners are really good and their defensive line was very impressive.”
The two teams entered Friday’s game as the last two unbeaten programs among Manatee County public schools.
Manatee (4-0) jumped out to a 21-6 lead by halftime behind a punishing running game and a stifling run defense.
The Canes’ defensive line, which features players with several Division I offers, dug in with a first-quarter goal line stand en route to limiting the Pirates to 87 rushing yards for the game.
“That was big,” Green said. “We hang our hats on our defense. They tried everything down there. They tried to roll out, they tried to quarterback boot and the guys played real disciplined down there. And we knew they couldn’t run it up the gut down there, so we knew they had to try to take it outside. Our guys stood tall.”
Added Bradley: “You’ve got to punch that in to get a tie game there after we were kind of on the ropes early to get that game back tied right then would have been nice. Instead, we go down I think 14-nothing and then you kind of playing on your heels a little bit.”
Meanwhile, Manatee’s offense hit a few big plays to hold that 15-point lead at the break. That included Kei’Shawn Smith’s 71-yard touchdown run. Smith tallied a game-high 123 rushing yards on eight carries.
Braden River, though, punched back in the second half. The Pirates’ defense limited Manatee’s offense before Lucas Despot connected with Matt Schefer on a 22-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter. That cut the Canes’ lead to 21-13.
Manatee’s Bon Bean Jr. turned the momentum back less than three minutes later.
On third-and-seven, quarterback Andrew Heidel tossed a pass to Bean over the middle. Bean, caught the pass and was spun around on a tackle attempt. Bean, though, did not fall down and kept his footing on Manatee’s turf field before breaking another tackle on the 53-yard reception.
Two plays later, linebacker Trayvon Pinder scored on a 6-yard run during his fourth-quarter spell playing running back.
“We knew a gig was coming and we just botched the coverage and broken tackles,” Bradley said.
Bean finished with five catches for 139 yards and a touchdown to pace Manatee’s passing game.
Braden River had one last shot after getting a defensive stop and scoring to bridge the gap back to a one-possession game. But Manatee recovered the onside kick to run out the clock.
“You’ve got to play a clean football game, and we just didn’t do that,” Bradley said.
The two teams weren’t the only ones in action this week.
Here’s a look at the rest of the Week 4 games with scores below:
Naples Lely 46, Southeast 13
Saint Stephen’s 47, Naples Aubrey Rogers 7
IMG Academy White 62, Fort Myers Evangelical Christian 27
IMG Academy National 28, Cleveland (Ohio) Glenville 6
Parrish Community at Avon Park (score not reported at press time)
Palmetto 49, Sarasota 31 (Thursday)
Lakewood Ranch 47, IMG Academy Blue 7 (Thursday)
Swipe below for scores involving Bradenton-area programs: