With a quarterback making his first start of the season, the Sarasota High football team traveled to Manatee High on Friday night and came home with its first playoff victory in 18 seasons.
The Sailors beat the Hurricanes 30-20 in the Florida High School Athletic Association Class 4S regional quarterfinals. The team was steadied by its running game — junior Joe Ziegler and sophomore Takurian Smith each ran for a score — but was given a boost by junior quarterback Michael Bendever, who made his first start of the season. Head Coach Brody Wiseman said he turned to Bendever, who had been getting a share of first-team reps all season alongside sophomore Alexander Diaz, because he added a new dimension to the offense that had been missing: the deep ball.
Bendever threw touchdowns to senior Tyler Pack and junior Jackson Mullett, the latter a 27-yard strike, and did not throw an interception. Wiseman said Bendever is in the mold of former Sailors starting quarterback Lance Trippel in that he comes from a baseball background. He's still learning football nuances, Wiseman said, but has a strong arm and good potential. Wiseman was pleased with the way he protected the ball and made plays down the stretch.
"If we don't get that performance from him tonight, we probably don't win this game," Wiseman said.
Sarasota was helped early by a Manatee mistake. The Hurricanes attempted a punt on their first possession, but the snap sailed over the head of the Hurricanes punter, who instinctively kicked the ball out of the end zone for a safety. The Sailors went up 2-0 and would never trail.
The Sailors will get a rematch with local rival Riverview High at home in the regional semifinals. The Rams defeated Gulf Coast High 29-15 on the road Friday.