Dwyer falls 19-14 to Bradenton-Manatee in football Class 7A state semifinal
Friday, December 09, 2011
by Jeff Greer
Dwyer’s Johnnie Dixon reacts after he dropped what would have been a first down within the red zone in the last minute. Panthers lineman Michael Minns consoles him as coach Jack Daniels walks with them back to the Dwyer sideline. (Allen Eyestone / Palm Beach Post)
BRADENTON - For much of Friday night's Class 7A state semifinal, Dwyer looked dominant. Everything went the Panthers' way.
But penalties and miscues undid Dwyer in a heart-breaking 19-14 loss to Bradenton-Manatee.
It was the second devastating loss in a state semifinal in two years for Dwyer.
"Our kids played their butts off," Dwyer coach Jack Daniels said, "just like they have all year."
Daniels was livid all game with the referees. On at least four occasions, Dwyer had big gains wiped out by penalties. Twice, fumble calls appeared to be missed.
One missed fumble when it appeared Dwyer tight end Malik Brown had converted a first down and was down resulted in Manatee's first touchdown.
Another when a Manatee player caught a pass but lost it after a huge hit was ruled an incomplete pass.
Both plays hurt.
Every time Dwyer (12-2) appeared to have Manatee (12-2) beaten, Manatee responded.
The Panthers stormed down field and scored the go-ahead touchdown with six minutes to play on an 11-yard Faton Bauta run.
Bauta, who ran 24 times for 168 yards and two touchdowns, gave his team a 14-13 lead.
"He was the best player on the field tonight," Daniels said. "Faton's made more progress in the past six games than any player I've ever coached."
But Manatee countered, driving 63 yards in three minutes to take the lead back. That score didn't come easily.
Staring down third-and-3, Manatee quarterback Cord Sandberg bulldozed his way to a 20-yard touchdown.
That proved to be the game-winner.
Dwyer reached Manatee's 27-yard line, but a dropped fourth-down pass ended Dwyer's drive and hopes for a second state title.
"It's a football game," Dwyer defensive tackle Mike Minns said as he walked off the field. "There's nothing we can do about all that. We had a good year."
It was a heated contest all night, with both teams jawing at each other before the game even started.
Dwyer produced more than 200 yards rushing and converted 17 first downs. The Panthers only punted twice.
But more drives stalled than not.
And it was Manatee that took advantage, winning the turnover battle. The Hurricanes struggled moving the ball on offense, but when they needed to, they did.
Sandberg ran 17 times for 54 yards and a touchdown. Leon Allen had nine carries for 79 yards.
Dwyer's vaunted defense showed up, but the mistakes cost the Panthers their second trip to a state final in three years.
"It's a three-hour bus ride after your kids played their hearts out," Daniels said. "It hurts.
"A lot of people affected the game that don't put in the hours and it's wrong."