Friday Night Lights

I photograph a lot of things. Weddings, families, buildings, sports, high school seniors, trains, doors, the list goes on and on. Each other them intrigue me for one reason or another. Doors for example, they have tons of charter and can really tell a story for such an inanimate object.  The thing that I enjoy the most however is photographing high school football. Not just any high school football, but football for Manatee High School. They say Cane Pride Never Dies and that is the case with me. Friday nights in the fall there is no place I’d rather be than Hawkins Stadium. The school has been playing football for over 100 years.  The stadium hasn’t changed much in the last few decades, minus a new giant jumbo tron and a new concession building on the west end. I find it to have its own aura. Sometimes I go and run stadiums there. The stadium is empty and I can image the place, full to the brim back in the 90’s 90′ and late 2000’s. Growing up I could actually hear the games from my house, it was just under a mile away from the stadium. I could hear the unmistakable voice of Mr. Forssell echoing through the night. I could also hear the dull roar of the crowd and the band. There wasn’t much I knew about Manatee football as neither of my parent were from the area. I sadly didn’t go to games until my 8th grade year at Sugg Middle School. The band got invited to two games that year. One at Bayshore, and one at Manatee. We got to go in the stands with the band and perform with them. I couldn’t tell you who Manatee was playing during that game but I know they won, and I was hooked. I couldn’t wait for the following year to be apart of that. Little did I know that 5ish years later I would be taking pictures on the field. I made up for lost time from those early years, After 2002 I only missed 7 games.

(This photo was shot from my drone pregame during a coin toss, sadly the stands aren’t what they once were but hopefully were heading back in that direction)

The first few years after I graduated I wasn’t full on into the photography yet. The way I kept going to the games was to help out and volunteer with the marching band. It was a simple job, helped the band kids figure out where to go and how to get there for the halftime show. I stood in the stands with the band for all of the 06 season and most of the 07 season. 2008 I started to bring a camera to the games and get into shooting more. Those shots leave a lot to be desired. Image may contain: one or more people and outdoorImage may contain: people playing sport, american football and outdoor

(Top Photo: Ace Sanders getting up field after catching a pass.)

(Above Photo: Brion Carnes setting his feet to throw)

2009 things started to get more fun. The team was good, really good. Coach Kinnan was back and getting work done. We had talent all over the field. We had a rematch with some old rivals. Those stupid raiders from Ft Lauderdale.  The had kicked us out of the playoffs twice before, once when they were the better team, and once when they weren’t. A sour taste in the mouth with them is an understatement. In 2009 they were the #1 team in the nation. They were on some crazy win streak at least 30 wins in a row. They were coming back to our house. Back to Hawkins Stadium.  We packed them in like standing room only. Had to be 10,000 people at the game. That Manatee Magic struck, not that we needed it, we were flat out better then them. We beat them, put us back on the national radar for football. We had another game to play for the state title the next week. That did not go well. We wont talk about that. Image may contain: one or more people, people playing sport, grass, american football and outdoorImage may contain: one or more people, crowd, night, sky and outdoor

Still not the greatest shots but I am getting better here.

2010 was a year unlike any other. We played a game on ESPN and throttled Plant 48-10. We left the state for the first time to play a game and beat up on Woodland Hills up in PA. We got to #1 in the Nation for a bunch of weeks in a row. We were rolling. I don’t remember a game being close. We beat Venice twice, once in the regular season and once in the playoffs. Then those damned kids from Ft Lauderdale ruined it. We had to go down to their place and they just beat us.

2011 We weren’t going to let that happen again. We had a gauntlet of  a schedule, an IMG like schedule before IMG showed up. We had the #1 team in the nation on the schedule, we had another out of state game, and our general foes. We started the year out 2-2. The most dangerous 2-2 team in the country. We lost on a BS call in Maryland. We started on the 25 in overtime and got to the 15 yard line, the ball is sitting on the 15 and they said we didn’t get to the yard to gain. We lost in overtime. We came home licked our wounder and took it out on Riverview winning 48-6. Then we had the #1 team in the nation. A day game, strange I know. We lost to them 22-16 but we shot ourselves in the foot with special teams blunders. We were the better team, just not that day. We crushed the rest of the teams outscoring them 565-185. We didn’t lose another game the entire year. We played one helluva game against Dwyer in the playoffs. They had beat STA (the boys from Ft Lauderdale) the week before. We had built our schedule to be ready for that game vs them. Then this kid Bauta their QB played the best game I’ve ever seen a high school kid play. He single handled almost beat us. If it wasn’t for the efforts of Cord Sanderberg late in the game we wouldn’t have won. That year I was confident we could play and beat anyone. Late in that game I wasn’t so sure. The following week we got to go to states. We played a team from Jacksonville. First Coast, they didn’t score/ We won 40-0 No photo description available.No photo description available.Image may contain: 1 person

The rest of this blog post I’ll just touch base on a few specific memories from a photography standpoint.

One of those games where I wasn’t sure it would going to end well turned out to be a great night. We were playing University School from Ft Lauderdale. They were a good team with a great QB. Sean White, who eventually went to Auburn. Early in the game we made some mistakes and they didn’t. They were up 21-0 in the first quarter. We tightened up started playing some Manatee football and came back to win 28-24.

Another great memory I have is when we were #1 in the nation and the Palmetto coach said something about if we were so good how come we didn’t have more shut outs. That our D line was only fast enough to run to the refrigerator for snacks. We beat them that night 62-0 in front of a packed house. Not only was it a packed house, but it was on Bright House network TV.

Another favorite memory was from 2012, we had to travel to Fort Pierce Central for a Regional Semi Final Game. The year before was a close game we won 13-10 and Coach said he called a bad game and wouldn’t do that again. We went down there and beat the daylights out of them. We won 51-0. I will never forget their fans leaving at HALFTIME.

One player I miss from a photography point of view was Travon Walters. He was always keen to make someone miss, or flip into the end zone. You never knew what he was going to do but you knew you had to watch. I’ve had a few dynamic guys like him since but none that leave their feet like he did.

On that note, I am going to bring this blog post to a close. I could keep talking Manatee football and the endless amount of memories I have. Positives and negatives. That all being said if you need me on a Friday night in the fall you can almost bet I will be wherever the big red machine is playing football.

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