BRADEN RIVER — Braden River knew what it needed to do to keep its playoff hopes alive: Beat Englewood Lemon Bay.
The rest would take care of itself.
Braden River scored offensively, defensively and on special teams, posting 42 points in the first half on its way to a 48-8 thumping of the Manta Rays in last Friday’s Class 3A-District 10 finale.
The Pirates win coupled with Southeast’s 34-27 victory over Bayshore propelled Braden River to its second straight playoff berth. As the district runner up, Braden River will travel to Winter Haven Nov. 20 for the regional quarterfinals.
“We had scoring contributions from all three units,” Braden River coach Ed Volz said. “I think when you are as demanding of kids as we are … I think that they have to see the rewards of the hard work – it's the only way to sustain any level of consistent success.
“I believe (this win) just reinforces our beliefs of what it takes to be successful,” he said.
Braden River took control of the game quickly, scoring 22 points in the first quarter on touchdown runs of 14 and 87 yards by senior running back Tevin Bryant and a 19-yard fumble recovery and return for a touchdown by Deon Taylor.
Bryant, who carried the ball 18 times for 226 yards, scored on a 33-yard run before turning the ball over to backup Jaredd Pate in the third quarter. Pate picked up right where Bryant left off, rumbling for 106 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown, which gave the Pirates a 48-0 advantage.
“It’s always great when you can reward kids that work as hard and are as committed as our starters,” Volz said of playing his backups. “We have had some close games the past three weeks, so it was great to get those kids in.”
Quarterback Ryan Fischer completed three of six passes, including a 14-yard touchdown pass to Shawn Skinner.
Defensively, Mick Olitsky recovered a fumbled kickoff and returned it 16 yards for a score; and Joey Meador blocked a 53-yard field goal attempt.
Braden River will close out its regular season at home tomorrow night against Palmetto. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
The Tigers (4-5, 1-2 Class 4A-District 11) are coming off last Friday’s disappointing 17-14 loss to Lakewood, which kept them from returning to the playoffs. Although the outcome of the game will not affect the Pirates playoff chances, Braden River will look to close out its season on a winning note before gearing up for the postseason.
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].