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December 16, 2011

Florida fan leads team to title

ORLANDO, Fla. - Cord Sandberg stood near the middle of the Citrus Bowl field, looking around in awe and waiting to receive his 7A state champion medal.

"It's hard to describe this scene," he said. "I wish I could stay here forever."

In the hours preceding his moment of glory, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Bradenton Manatee junior quarterback had diced a highly touted Jacksonville First Coast defense into submission. His performance had defied his dual-threat label and left a crowd of over 5,000 just as impressed as he was with his surroundings.

Against a defense with four Division I commits and loads of young talent, Sandberg proved his merits as a running quarterback by racking up 78 yards on 14 carries, including a 12-yard touchdown run in the first quarter that ended with an acrobatic dive across the goal line.

"I don't know if I've ever wanted anything more than to win a state championship, and to do it with these guys and this team and this community, it's unbelievable," Sandberg said.

But for those wondering if his legs were his greatest strength, Sandberg also took to the air. On the evening, he was 13 of 17 for 180 yards and one touchdown. Anthony Lauro, a 2013 running back who also proved his versatility on Friday night, accounted for 77 of those receiving yards and was target on the touchdown in which he broke wide open up the middle of the field.

"We came in with a game plan," Sandberg said. "Offense and defense played awesome this game"

After all was said and done, that game plan that Sandberg talked about helped lead to a 40-0 defeat of a previously undefeated First Coast squad. Manatee's ability to mix pass and run in a unique spread offense kept First Coast off balance the entire game.

Although it was difficult to collect his thoughts among the congratulations, television cameras and universal praise, Sandberg did take a minute to speak about his college decision process.

"I've had some different colleges come in," he said. "I'm pretty open as far as where I want to go to college. I'm just happy to enjoy this win as a Hurricane."

The recent visits he has had have come from Vanderbilt and Mississippi State. Not included that group is Florida, a school that Sandberg visited earlier this year but that has yet to pick up major interest in the young signal caller.

"Not too much," he said when asked about the Gators' level of interest in him. "I went up on a visit and talked to Coach (Charlie) Weis a little bit there, but not too much. I never really have talked to them, talked to them like I have talked to some other schools."

While Florida may not hold interest just yet, there is certainly a draw on Sandberg's part.

His father used to play baseball for the Gators, and he admitted that despite his skill set, he would be comfortable playing in a pro-style offense instead of a spread option.

"I've been a Florida fan my whole life cheering for the Gators, so it's definitely a possibility," Sandberg said. "The overall feeling is right."


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