ST. PETERSBURG — Gibbs knew exactly what to expect with Manatee coming to town for the first round of the Class 5A playoffs.
Unfortunately for the District 9 champs, it was difficult doing much with that knowledge as the Hurricanes rolled to a 52-15 victory.
"They're a well-oiled team," said Gibbs coach Donnie Abraham, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive back who resurrected the program after taking over in July. "It's where we want to be as a program. They did things effortlessly and their experience was clear from the start."
With an offense that entered the game averaging 36.2 points and a defense allowing just a little more than 13 points, the Hurricanes (10-1) presented huge problems on both sides of the ball for the Gladiators (6-5), and it showed as the visitors compiled 558 total yards to Gibbs' 258.
Manatee started out strong, scoring in every way imaginable while building a 31-3 lead before suffering a hiccup in the third quarter as Gibbs responded with two consecutive touchdowns, one on a 1-yard run by Mike Kendricks and the other on a 31-yard reception by Gary Simon from Josh Rembert.
But the Hurricanes, who have 23 playoff appearances, finished the game with 21 unanswered points.
"We wanted to get out (to a lead) early and keep it on them," said Manatee junior running back Mike Blakely, who had one touchdown and rushed for 117 yards on 19 carries.
Perry Joseph led the Gladiators with 83 yards on nine touches.