Manatee-Skyline game in doubt (Scout.com)
SEATTLE - Thursday it was revealed that the highly anticipated matchup between 2011 7A State Champions Manatee from Florida and 2011 4A State Champions Skyline from Washington is on the rocks after the marketing company responsible for arranging the game is backing out.
Next Level Football, a West Virgina-based company, (http://www.nextlevelfootball.com/) was the group that brought the two powerhouse programs together with the idea of the Hurricanes traveling to Seattle to take on the Spartans.
"It was a marketing company that approached us in early December," Skyline Head Coach Mat Taylor told Scout.com Thursday morning shortly after the news became public. "They wanted to try and get a game with us and Manatee, Florida, and they would travel here. Everything was a go. We received the papers four to six weeks ago and got the go-ahead to announce the game. We just found out an hour or two ago that they are withdrawing from organizing and financing the contest because the airline sponsor supposedly backed out of their agreement."
Taylor doesn't know the airline that was working with Next Level. "That could be up for debate as to whether or not there was an airline sponsor," Taylor said.
The Spartans couldn't travel to Manatee even if they wanted to at this late date. They will be in Salt Lake City the weekend before, playing Cottonwood High School, so it's impossible for them to do that two weeks in a row. "That would be very difficult, taking the kids out of school another two days next week to travel down there, so that's really not an option for us," Taylor said.
According to Taylor, the cost of flying Manatee to Seattle for the September 15th game would be roughly $40,000. He expects to meet with Skyline's booster group to come up with a strategy to help defray costs for the Florida school as a way to keep the game afloat. He's open to anything at this point, including housing the Hurricanes with host families on the Plateau, if that's what it takes.
"I remember when I was growing up and we did the Canadian exchange for soccer, where we would go up there and stay with families," he said. "Yeah, we could work something out."
He even believes the game could be moved during the week to accommodate interested television parties. Both Fox and ESPN cover national high school games every year, and ESPNU went to the Plateau a couple years ago when Skyline lost a thriller to Oaks Christian of California.
"We could go Thursday, Friday or Saturday, I think," said Taylor. "(Manatee Head) Coach (Joe) Kinnan and myself are going to reach out to as many people as we can to help salvage this because one, of timing. It's going to be hard for us to find games week three. Also, their kids were so excited because a lot of them have never been to the west coast. Also it was a great opportunity for two high-profile teams."
Skyline is led by Scout.com's No. 1 quarterback - Max Browne - who just verbally committed, while the Hurricanes have quarterback Cord Sandberg, Florida's 7A State Player of the Year. Sandberg currently has scholarship offers from schools like LSU, Arizona, Auburn, Baylor, Clemson and West Virginia.
By the end of next week, this game could be dead in the water - so both programs are performing CPR right now to bring it back to life. "Right now we're saying by next Wednesday we're going to have to move forward and try to find games on our own," Taylor said. "That will be challenging. I feel bad for (Manatee) because they have two games with this company."
Next Level apparently signed off on producing a game for Manatee with Friendship Collegiate Academy of Washington D.C. the week before coming to Seattle.