SARASOTA — It doesn’t determine how a team will fair throughout the regular season.
It doesn’t count toward a team’s overall record.
And, most importantly, it doesn’t impact a team’s playoff chances.
But, what it does determine is how a team has progressed after three weeks of practice.
The spring game is a measuring stick designed to give coaches and players an opportunity to see how they stack up, as they prepare to head into their summer and fall programs.
For Cardinal Mooney, it was an opportunity to gauge how it faired in all three aspects of the game — offense, defense and special teams.
And when it was all said and done, Cardinal Mooney coach Josh Smithers was pleased with his team’s effort; all three units played a part in the Cougars’ 32-13 victory over Braden River May 23.
“Obviously, it’s spring, so no one’s going to be rolling perfectly,” Smithers says. “I felt like, in all three phases of the game, we played pretty well considering there are some things that we’ve got to clear up.
“The thing we did well, when we weren’t producing offensively, (was that) the defense came out and got three-and-outs and were giving us opportunities.”
Cardinal Mooney took a 6-0 lead on a 45-yard touchdown pass from Reese Vita to Sean Morris. The Cougars extended their lead on Demardre Patterson’s 4-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter.
Blake Young added a 32-yard field goal midway through the second quarter to give Cardinal Mooney a 16-0 lead heading into the locker room at halftime.
Cardinal Mooney elected to return punts and kickoffs and attempt field goals as if it were a regular game. The move paid off for the Cougars, who saw Patterson return a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown following a Braden River touchdown to open the third quarter.
“I like special teams just for the simple fact that it gives you a chance to play more guys, and it’s a part of the game in the fall,” Smithers says. “Spring is supposed to be a (progression) period. It’s not just offense and defense.”
Defensively, the Cougars held Braden River to three first downs in the first half.
The Pirates got onto the scoreboard early in the third quarter on a 2-yard run by Davion Banks.
Freshman quarterback Jake Huesman, who was playing in his first varsity game, scored Braden River’s final touchdown with 5:44 left in the game.
Huesman came on after starting quarterback Dusty Peebles left after suffering a concussion on the third play of the game. Huesman completed 15-of-32 passes for 218 yards.
“That kid is a warrior,” Braden River coach Curt Bradley says of Huesman. “He played his heart out. You hate to see what happened to Dusty, but it was good to see what that young kid could do and know that, if we need him in the future, he’ll be there for us.
“We would have liked to end on a positive note, but there were some positives in the overall spectrum of the game that we are proud of,” Bradley says. “We’re a better program now than we were at the end of last spring. That’s all you can ask for.”