SARASOTA — The elements for Braden River High’s Preseason Kickoff Classic at Cardinal Mooney were anything but favorable.
And yet the thick, muggy night air coupled with a slick and muddy field proved to be the perfect learning tools for the Pirates.
After a 30-minute delay due to inclement field conditions, Braden River finally took the field and relied on it what it does best — running the football and playing potent defense. And when all the grass and mud had finally settled, the Pirates walked away with a 29-13 victory over the Cougars.
It was by no means a perfectly executed game, but it proved to be the perfect way to start the season.
“As sloppy as it is you hope that all of those ugly warts and boo-boos show themselves,” Volz said. “The elements were great because they revealed a lot of things we’ve got to get better at if we’re going to have a chance to be successful.”
After trailing 7-0 early on, the Pirates scored 22 unanswered points behind the legs of senior tailback Tevin Bryant who rushed for 196 yards and two touchdowns, including a 48-yard run to tie the game at 7-7 with 5:56 to play in the first quarter.
Senior quarterback Stephen Fischer had arguably his best performance on the ground, running through the mud for 65 yards on seven carries, including a 6-yard touchdown early in the second quarter to give Braden River its first lead of the night.
“It feels good to run the ball,” Fischer said. “It’s helpful knowing that if there’s nowhere to throw the ball then I can move around in the pocket.”
Bryant could have easily topped the 200-yard mark had it not been for a penalty, which negated a 58-yard touchdown run. The Pirates were penalized 12 times for 88 yards and turned the ball over twice, including a fumble to open the first quarter, resulting in a 24-yard touchdown by Cardinal Mooney’s Mark Smith.
“Fundamental flaws get shown up on ground like this,” Volz said. “We coach every single day for a day just like this because if you do it right the elements make no difference.”
It’s those types of miscues that continually overshadowed the positives. And it’s those types of miscues that the Pirates will need to cleanup before their showdown with crosstown rival Lakewood Ranch tomorrow night.
“We’ve got a tremendous opponent coming up this week, and we’ve got a lot of improvements to do,” Volz said.
The Pirates and Mustangs will meet on the gridiron for the third time tomorrow night in what has become the East County’s own version of rivalry week. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Braden River continues to holds an edge in the game, having defeated the Mustangs the past two seasons.
Braden River stunned Lakewood with a 20-6 victory on its home turf two years ago before posting a last second 14-7 come-from-behind victory last season. Thousands of fans are expected to pack into the stands at Braden River to watch the third installment of the rivalry game, which could set the tone for the rest of the season.
Following last season’s victory over the Mustangs, the Pirates racked up seven wins, earning their first trip to the postseason and an eventual playoff victory. Meanwhile, the Mustangs lost eight straight before earning their first win in their final game of the season.
Both the Pirates and the Mustangs will be looking to see how well their relatively young offensive lines can withstand the defensive pressure, which will undoubtedly be elevated even more by the rivalry.
Additionally, the Pirates will need strong performances by Bryant and Fischer if they’re going to come out victorious for the third straight season. And while the game has been circled on the calendar for weeks, the Pirates are refusing to let the game’s hype get the best of them.
“I just look at is as another game,” Fischer said. “I just need to stay calm and be selective, and then after the game, it’ll probably hit me. I have faith in my teammates; and I think we’ll be successful as long as we play as a team and work hard and hopefully we’ll come (out on top).”
Contact Jen Blanco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Braden River 7 14 8 0 — 29
Cardinal Mooney 7 0 0 6 — 13
CM — Mark Smith 24 fumble recovery (Porter Windom kick good), 10:51
BR — Tevin Bryant 48 run (Kadin Kerns kick good), 5:56
BR — Stephen Fischer 6 run (Kerns kick), 8:46
BR — Quentin Jones 5 pass from Fischer (Kerns kick), 00:05
BR — Bryant 10 run (kick failed), 7:11
BR — Safety (Alex Nugent tackled in end zone), 5:09
CM — Cody Tope 11 pass from Grant Flessner (kick failed), 6:30
First Downs 19 6
Rushes-yards 41-309 26-106
Passing yards 73 35
Comp-Att-Int 5-17-1 6-20-0
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-0
Penalties-yards 12-88 9-63
Rushing — Braden River: Bryant 22-196, Fischer 7-65, Jarred Pate 12-48. Cardinal Mooney: Flessner 11-90, Robert Lane 10-20, Jake Falter 2-1, Nugent 2-(minus 2), Justin Adler 1-(minus 3).
Passing — Braden River: Fischer 5-17-73-1. Cardinal Mooney: Flessner 6-20-35-0.
Receiving — Braden River: Sharrod Neasman 2-50, Bryant 1-9, Ryan Fischer 1-9, Jones 1-5. Cardinal Mooney: Tope 1-11, Jake Bornstein 2-9, Falter 1-8, Adler 1-5, Lane 1-2.