Braden River High football has inexperienced players at the skill positions.
An inexperienced Braden River High football team heads into the 2021 season with the hope of reversing recent fortunes.
Coach Curt Bradley said he expects his players to make big leaps this season after a 3-3 regular season record a year ago.
"We're confident," senior wide receiver Justice McDaniel said. "We have been working hard in the weight room. We have been listening to our coaches. We're doing everything we need to do to have a great season."
McDaniel will be catching passes from sophomore quarterback Nick Trier, who has earned the starting job after Shawqi Itraish graduated. Itriash, now at Rice University, was the latest in a string of Pirates quarterbacks to land a scholarship at the NCAA Division I level. Bryan Gagg is a redshirt freshman at East Carolina University, though he switched to tight end, and Jacob Huesman is a senior at Appalachian State University.
Bradley said Trier, who is 6-foot-3, has the potential to be the next great Pirates quarterback with his natural talent. Bradley said he just needs to keep working on the mental side of the game.
"The biggest thing for him is understanding that quarterback is not just any position, it's a leadership position," Bradley said. "It's the position where you have to know more than anybody else. That's the step a young, inexperienced quarterback has to take to reach the next level. Understand what everyone is doing. Know that you're the leader out there regardless of your age."
Trier will be throwing not just to McDaniel, whom Bradley said will see time at multiple positions, but to senior Bryan Kearse and freshman Rashawn Peterson. Kearse caught five passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns in limited action in 2020. Bradley said Peterson will being a speed boost to the receiving corps that will allow him to be a deep threat.
On defense, Braden River will be led by senior safety Andrew Nordland, who had 46 total tackles and an interception last season, and senior outside linebacker Evan Dangler, who had 18 tackles and a sack.
The Pirates are in a new district this season where the only other Manatee County team is Southeast High. The Pirates other district games will be against Hillsborough County schools Brandon High, Sumner High and Spoto High. The Pirates have scheduled non-district games against Bradenton-Sarasota rivals Riverview High, Sarasota High and Lakewood Ranch High, who the Pirates have not played since a 56-0 win in 2018. Bradley said he believes both teams are excited to start the series up again.
Bradley said he's excited to face some new teams, but the season will come down to how well his team executes, not who they're playing.
"Ultimately, it's about being a team," Bradley said. "The more we focus on the team aspect, the more successful we'll be."
Join the Neighborhood! Our 100% local content helps strengthen our communities by delivering news and information that is relevant to our readers. Support independent local journalism by joining the Observer's new membership program — The Newsies — a group of like-minded community citizens, like you. Be a Newsie.