FORT PIERCE — Bradenton-Manatee didn't hold anything back in showing Fort Pierce Central why the Hurricanes have been ranked as the top high school football team in the nation.
Manatee fumbled the first play from scrimmage but was everything as advertised after that, cruising to a 51-0 win Friday in the Region 3-7A final in front of a crowd of 4,326 at Calvin R. Triplett Field at Lawnwood Stadium.
Central (11-1), a team that averaged 36.0 points per game while limiting opponents to 8.8 points, managed only 143 yards of offense, while defending state champion Manatee (13-0) produced 482 yards.
"It's tough because we expected to play better," said Fort Pierce Central coach Josh Shaffer, whose Cobras lost to Manatee 13-10 this same round last year. "We didn't feel we could play better. We knew we could play better, and we expected to play better, and we didn't."
The Cobras reached the red zone twice and couldn't convert on fourth down, including their initial drive after Hurricanes quarterback Cord Sandberg fumbled the exchange on the first play from scrimmage and Jerandious Works recovered at the Manatee 24-yard line.
Central advanced to the 18 but Sam Vaughn's pass on fourth down was off target.
"That was a gimme we should have taken advantage of," Shaffer said.
Manatee, which has won 25 in a row, settled for a field goal on the ensuing drive for the Hurricanes' only score of the first quarter, but they found the end zone the first play of the second quarter and rolled to a 31-0 lead by halftime. It was their lowest first-quarter point total since Miramar carried a 6-3 lead into the second period in the season opener.
Trevon Walters, who missed last week with an ankle injury, scored three of the four second-quarter touchdowns, while JaJuan Pollock added the other as part of a four-touchdown performance. Sandberg, a Mississippi State commit, finished with a career-high five touchdowns to go along with 253 yards passing.
Central had allowed double-digit scoring in a quarter just one other time this season.
"We rose to the occasion and stopped them (their first drive), and that set the tone for the rest of the night," Manatee coach Joe Kinnan said. "I think that motivated our offense."
The Hurricanes defense never let down, especially creating problems up front with a defensive line of four Division I prospects. Manatee finished with five tackles for losses, two sacks and 14 quarterback hurries.
The Cobras went three-and-out their first drive of the second half and lost a fumble, which Brooks Malik recovered at the Central 11-yard line to set up another scoring drive that gave Manatee a 45-0 lead with 6:24 left in the third quarter.
"They were great," said Vaughn, who finished with 96 yards passing. "We knew they were good. I made a lot of mistakes and they capitalized. It wasn't all the offensive line. Some of it was me, stepping up too far and not moving in the right direction sometimes. They just outplayed us."
Marquis Dawsey led Manatee's defense with 9 tackles, 3 tackles for losses and a sack.
"That front four is the best thing they have going for them," Shaffer said. "I felt even during the game we had a lot of open receivers, and we just couldn't get the ball to them because we were terrorized up front, but at the same time you have to make plays, you've got to make completions and continue drives."
Manatee advances to the state semifinals and travels to St. Thomas Aquinas.