BRADEN RIVER — For a few moments, the Braden River High sideline was exuberant.
Momentum had swung in the Pirates’ favor, as they pulled within a touchdown of tying the game.
It was exactly what Braden River needed.
“We kind of had the crowd going and we were feeling pretty good about ourselves,” coach Curt Bradley said.
But a reverse call on a surprise onside kick and 49-yard touchdown run on the first play of Port Charlotte’s ensuing possession all but took the wind out of Braden River’s sails, as Port Charlotte held on for a 29-14 victory over Braden River in its homecoming game Sept. 28.
“We dug ourselves a hole in the first half and tried to dig ourselves out of it in the second half, and we just came up short,” Bradley said.
With the loss, the Pirates fell to 0-5 in the season. Although the loss and a steady downpour in the second half may have put a damper on the Pirates’ homecoming festivities, Braden River appears to be moving in the right direction.
The Pirates put up 14 points — surpassing their offensive production through the first four games of the season. Several players, including senior running back Austin Rain who scored Braden River’s first touchdown on a 30-yard run, sophomore running back Davion Banks and senior running back and defensive back Omar Maragh, returned to action after having missed most of the season with injuries — a welcome sight for Bradley and the rest of the Pirates sideline.
“The kids played hard and played to the last whistle,” Bradley said. “Most of the time as the season goes on, you lose guys. But we’re starting to get some guys back … It’s good to see some of those kids who haven’t even played a down for us yet get out there and make some plays.”
Braden River had several chances to take the lead after Port Charlotte fumbled the ball seven times, including a pair of muffed punts. The Pirates were unable to capitalize on the first muffed punt after Port Charlotte came up with an interception that led to a 79-yard scoring drive.
Braden River tied the game on Rain’s touchdown in the second quarter, but a pair of touchdowns gave Port Charlotte a 22-7 halftime lead. Schappacher connected with Justin Ross for a 15-yard touchdown on fourth-and-11 to pull the Pirates within a touchdown.
Braden River recovered the onside kick, but the officials ruled a Port Charlotte player was hit before the ball traveled 10 yards, reversing the play and sealing the victory for Port Charlotte.
Braden River returns to action Friday, Oct. 5, in what will be its toughest game of the season. The Pirates will host Manatee, which is ranked No. 1 in the nation, in its Class 7A-District 11 opener. The Hurricanes, who are coming off a 52-13 victory over Southeast, beat the Pirates 63-0 in last year’s district contest.
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].