After a devastating loss to rival Lakewood Ranch, the Braden River High School football team suffered its second loss of the season to the Venice Indians, 41-2, Sept. 10.
However, despite the lopsided score, head coach Don Purvis said the Pirates showed poise and character throughout the night.
“This week — even though the score got ugly — those guys never stopped,” Purvis said. “They never stopped yelling. They never stopped hustling. They never stopped diving. They never stopped trying. They’re not going to be different athletes week to week. They are who they are, but what they can control is their attitude and their effort and that’s all in their head.
“That is what we’ve been working on the most — the mental side of the game,” he said. “The physical side I think they can do when we start playing some schools our size, but they’re going to have to get emotionally and mentally tougher and that’s what we’re doing, and that’s a big improvement from last week.”
The Pirates faced the nationally ranked Indians, and they had all the odds against them. Running back Jaredd Pate was out with an injury aggravated last week in the season-opener against the Mustangs, and senior Durrell Dowling suffered a concussion late in the third quarter and was sent to the hospital.
“I’m a little banged up, and I was a little out of it, but I wasn’t paying attention to how I was feeling,” Dowling said. “I was more worried about the game.”
Dowling’s concussion wasn’t the only injury during the game. Quarterback Ryan Fischer suffered a cramp that left him unable to play and sent Steven Ross in at the quarterback position. Ross started his first varsity game last week in the loss against Lakewood Ranch.
“I thought Fischer was doing a very, very good job,” Purvis said. “He made some very good throws that were dropped, and if they’re caught, they’re either first downs or they’re touchdowns. And you make some of those plays that change the game. I thought he was putting the ball right where it needed to be.”
Injuries weren’t the only problem the Pirates faced. Braden River received many penalties throughout the game. The Pirates’ only score of the game came in the first quarter when the Venice quarterback was sacked in the end zone by Pirate linebacker Keith Grafton. It seemed as if the Pirates were going to put another touchdown on the scoreboard when Reshay McQueen ran the ball for a 94-yard kickoff return that was call back because of a penalty. The Indians held the Pirates to 182 yards offensively.
“This is a much better opponent than we faced last week,” Purvis said. “This is a high-power team, a nationally ranked program. They got a lot of returning starters, and we have a lot of fresh guys. But I never felt like this team quit.”
Dowling, however, said the Pirates lacked the intensity necessary to beat a team like Venice.
“It wasn’t so much the performance; it was just the intensity wasn’t there at all,” he said. “Part of the games is intensity, so if you don’t have intensity, then your team doesn’t perform. … If you don’t perform, you don’t win. We performed. We just didn’t have the intensity to win.”
The Pirates will take on former head coach Ed Volz and his Sarasota Sailors at their home opener. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.
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