Football is both our national passion and pastime, and hot off the nail biting excitement of this year’s Super Bowl, I can’t help but wonder if in a few years we’ll be watching some of our championship-winning Palmetto Senior High players in a future national college or pro game. With just a little more community support, there’s a great chance you’ll start to recognize more and more faces from our hometown on the fields game days.
Just last month, Palmetto Senior football had players sign to full rides at academic powerhouses Penn and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Recently, other players signed to or have letters of intent from Miami, Eastern Kentucky, Temple, Georgia, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa, FIU, Mississippi State and Boston College, among others.
“I tell everyone we run an AP (Advanced Placement ) football program,” said Palmetto Senior’s Athletic Director Steve Batten explains. “Sure, other schools’ players get a lot of attention, but those kids can’t actually get signed because either they can’t graduate, they don’t have the GPA or they can’t get the test scores. And once they get there, they fail out. Not our guys. Our guys are “signable,” and our players graduate and succeed,” Batten explains.
Last fall, Palmetto won the 2017 District Championship, representing the first time Palmetto topped the district since 1999. The football coach Mike Manasco, a 39-year-old alumnus of the Class of ‘97, has built his program into a championship-winning dynamo that graduates almost 100% of its players and gets its best and brightest signed by top-ranked colleges and universities.
“The Championship really signaled a change in our program,” said Manasco. The team’s 17-4 record over the past 2 years has started to draw the attention of colleges that might have overlooked Palmetto in the past. “Our student-athletes are high-quality students as well as great athletes,” he added.
Manasco takes 100 youngsters and molds them in to high performing, responsible and capable men. Not only does he run a year-round program that starts with practice in the sweltering August sun, grinds through a successful fall season and then resumes for spring ball, he also feeds his players and raises the funding to outfit them with uniforms and equipment. He and his team of dedicated volunteer assistant coaches make sure the athletes are properly presented to recruiters, scouts and coaches at “showcases” and college camps around the state.
The showcases are key. Getting players signed starts with getting the attention of recruiters and coaches at the college level. Besides making sure his players are present at showcases and college camps in the spring and summer months, Coach Manasco took his team all the way to Tampa last November, where they dominated Tampa Bay Tech 42-26 and generated positive coverage for the program across Florida.
However, none of this success is free. Public school districts are strapped for cash, and sports teams need to fundraise heavily to keep playing. Football is a particularly expensive sport, and many of the players’ families lack the ability to help.
Because of the huge potential for so many of these players to go on to succeed on the field and in life if given just a little assistance, I have recently committed to raise $20,000 for the Palmetto Senior football program. Already, Williamson Cadillac, Gautier & Hasty, the Corradino Group, Prime Air & Ocean Cargo and several individuals have joined in the effort, and we are almost half way to our goal.
Neighbors and friends, regardless of where you went to school – and of course Palmetto Panther alumni – I’m asking you to join me in supporting Coach Manasco and the Palmetto High football team. Pound for pound, it’s the best investment you can make in deserving, hard-working and talented kids right here in our town. Your donations buy food (it takes a lot of PB &J to keep these guys fueled and on campus almost 12 hours a day), uniforms, new helmets and pads, and transportation to showcases, college camps and games.
Make checks out to Panther Touchdown Club, Inc. and mail them to P.O. Box 565772, Miami FL 33256-5772. You’ll be glad you did when you see one of “our” Palmetto Senior High kids on the field at the Super Bowl, and know you helped him get there.