EAST LAKE — Do not panic, East Lake fans.
If recent history is an indication, Friday’s 26-17 loss to Manatee does not mean doom for the upcoming regular season. The Eagles lost 38-7 in last year’s preseason game at Manatee, then went on to win 13 straight games.
This game was much closer. The Eagles only trailed 16-14 at halftime and the Hurricanes’ only second-half touchdown came on a blocked punt.
“This loss did not show what we are capable of,” Eagles senior Carson Lydon said. “I promise you we will get our stuff together before next week’s game against Palm Harbor. I promise.”
Manatee’s first two scores came after East Lake turnovers. On their second drive of the first quarter, Eagles’ running back Drew Couto fumbled on his 19-yard line. Manatee recovered on the 5, but a goal-line stand resulted in a 22-yard field goal.
On its next drive East Lake fumbled again, this time Jake Hudson, and the Hurricanes again recovered on the 5. Kavious Price scored to make it 9-0.
“We gave them their first nine points off turnovers,” East Lake coach Bob Hudson said. “But there were some positives too. We were missing four starters, but we still played hard all night.
One of those starters was receiver George Campbell, who played the first half with a sore right wrist but was held out in the second half.
In the second quarter the Eagles had a seven-play, 70-yard drive, capped by a 4-yard run by Lydon. The highlight was a 34-yard pass to Campbell.
Manatee came back with an 80-yard drive to make it 16-7. But with 10 seconds left in the second, Hudson found Bryce Miller for a 53-yard touchdown.
On East Lake’s first drive of the third quarter, punter Daniel Lacamera had his punt blocked by Nashon Smith, who scooped up the ball near the 35 and scored untouched.
Lacamera’s 34-yard field goal early in the fourth cut the lead to 23-17 but the Eagles got no closer.
“We’ll get back to work and correct some things,” Hudson said. “The NFL gets four (preseason games), we only get one. Manatee is a heck of a team and the bottom line is this one doesn’t count.”
Manatee’s Johnny Lang ran for 133 yards on 28 carries. East Lake quarterback Jake Hudson was 15-for-27 for 195 yards.