Braden River still dominant in the football series with Lakewood Ranch.
After a two-season hiatus, the series was back on Sept. 10 between the Braden River High and Lakewood Ranch High football teams.
Unfortunately for the Mustangs, the result was similar to the trend before the series break.
Braden River's 48-16 victory was almost as dominating as the 2018 game, which it won 56-0. The Pirates have now won the past six games in the series by an average of 36 points.
Despite a Mustangs' resurgence under Head Coach Rashad West, they haven't closed the gap with the powerful Pirates. Braden River scored on its first drive, a 36-yard scamper by freshman running back Trayvon Pinder, and didn't look back.
The game was so lopsided it was played with a running clock in the fourth quarter. The Mustangs scored on the final play of the game to close the margin.
"It's been a couple years since we played this (game) and Coach West is doing a great job over there," Braden River Head Coach Curt Bradley said. "Their junior varsity team is good and their varsity team had a solid start to the year. Hopefully this is a game that continues because it means a lot to this area. The players know each other. In the east Manatee area, they all played Pop Warner together. They probably played multiple sports together. It means something to those guys."
West was not pleased with his team's effort and said there were plays to be made if the Mustangs had given 100% of themselves to execution. He said he has to do a better job of preparing his team to play, especially in a game that has the emotional stakes of this one.
"I'm glad the students came out and supported our kids, but we have to give them more to cheer about," West said. "We talk about this game as a rivalry. Well, it's not going be a rivalry until we start doing our part. That starts with me. We have to get better."
Mustangs senior kicker Drew Clark said the team has talked all week about the importance of the game. Clark said he could feel the excitement for the game rising within the school as it drew closer. The Lakewood Ranch faithful did show up as students brought numerous signs, including a large banner hung from the bleachers that said "We would rather walk the plank than be a Pirate."
There are signs that the series could become closer in the future. The Lakewood Ranch junior varsity team defeated Braden River's junior varsity team 40-14 on Sept. 9. When those players graduate to the varsity team in 2022 and 2023, it's possible they turn the tide. Next season, the Mustangs will also have another year of experience with players like junior wide receiver/tight end Isaac Ashley, who caught seven passes for 152 yards and a touchdown against the Pirates.
West said the Mustangs will have to improve their consistency before they can be more competitive against the Pirates. Lakewood Ranch had a few big plays, like Ashley's 57-yard touchdown catch from Madison in the first quarter. But the Pirates dominated the line of scrimmage.
Braden River controlled the clock, and the game, with a consistent running game and, on defense, by forcing Madison into quick decisions with its pressure. Pirates senior linebacker Evan Dangler finished the game with three sacks and Madison threw two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown by Dangler's brother, junior Aidan Dangler.
Evan Dangler said the defense was prepared to stop Lakewood Ranch's passing game, which typically spreads the ball all over the field.
"The atmosphere was amazing tonight," Evan Dangler said. "It was great to be a part of this rivalry. I loved it."
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