WINTER HAVEN — Even with only five field goal attempts in his stats, Braden River junior Kadin Kerns earned any kicker’s dream nickname last Friday.
Before the Pirates even took the field in the Class 3A-Region 3 quarterfinal in Winter Haven Nov. 20, Kerns knew there was a chance he could be called upon should Braden River find itself in a position to win the game. And when the Pirates assumed possession on the 10-yard line in double overtime with the game tied at 21, all Kerns could do was watch and wait — although he didn’t have to wait long.
Two plays later, Kerns trotted onto the field and drilled a 24-yard field goal, propelling Braden River to a 24-21 double-overtime victory over the host Blue Devils Nov. 20.
“People were telling me, ‘Hey Kadin, it might come down to you,’ and I was just like, ‘Alright.’ I was just up for anything,” said Kerns, who received the game ball. “I was nervous, and I was shaking a little bit, but I knew I could do it. I had faith in my snapper, blockers and holder because if they all don’t do their job, then I can’t do mine.”
It was Kerns’ first game-winning field goal of the season.
“Clutch … he’s worked his tail off for us all year,” coach Ed Volz said. “A big field goal last week and obviously a big field goal tonight. We’re proud of him, and I’m glad we gave him a shot to kick one last week because it was a tune-up for tonight.”
With the win, Braden River (7-4) will play host to Lake Wales, which defeated Southeast 30-27 in double overtime, tomorrow night in the regional semifinals — marking the Pirates first-ever home playoff game.
“I’m proud of these guys,” Volz said. “We had some guys make some unbelievable plays, and that’s what it takes in playoff football. You’ve got to find a way to make some plays, and you saw tonight that’s really what it came down to. Boy, that was fun.”
After falling behind 14-0 in the second quarter, the Pirates scored 14 unanswered points to send the game into overtime. Braden River cut Winter Haven’s lead in half when Jaredd Pate scored on a 12-yard run with 1:06 remaining in the first half.
In the second half, the Pirates’ SWAT defense controlled the game, holding Winter Haven to just 25 yards in the second half and forcing the Blue Devils to punt on all four of their possessions, three of which came on three and out situations.
“They’ve been unbelievable all year,” Volz said of the defense. “It doesn’t matter who you put out there. They’ve been fantastic, and we’ve got to do a little more to create some separation offensively, but our leadership, our seniors, our talent is really on the defensive side of the ball.”
On its final possession of the fourth quarter, Braden River marched 70 yards down the field and tied the game on a 1-yard keeper by sophomore quarterback Ryan Fischer with 38.3 seconds remaining, capping off a 17-play drive and sending the game into overtime.
In overtime, Fischer connected with Sharrod Neasman-Glover for a 10-yard touchdown, giving Braden River a 21-14 lead.
The Blue Devils responded on their ensuing possession when quarterback Alex LaRue connected with J.T. Hawkins from 10 yards out.
But in double overtime, it was all Braden River as the Pirates defense forced two incomplete passes and a sack. Winter Haven attempted a 34-yard field goal, which sailed wide left — setting up Kerns’ game-winning field goal.
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].
BR 0 7 0 7 7 3 — 24
WH 0 14 0 0 7 0 — 21
WH — Julius Moseley 1 run (Bo Snively kick), 11:56
WH — Adam Lane 53 run (kick good), 6:00
BR — Jaredd Pate 12 run (Kadin Kerns kick), 1:06
BR — Ryan Fischer 1 run (Kerns kick), 38.3
BR — Sharrod Neasman-Glover 10 pass from Fischer
WH — J.T. Hawkins 10 pass from Alex LaRue (kick good)
WH — FG Snively 34 failed
BR — FG Kerns 24
Rushing — Braden River: Tevin Bryant 24-78, Pate 9-56, Fischer 15-26, Neasman-Glover 1-9. Lane 1-53, Moseley 10-43, David Allen 13-33, Donald Celiscar 2-6, Michael Easton 1-2, Orette Daley 1-(minus 4), LaRue 2-(minus 12).
Passing — Braden River: Fischer 11-25-100-0. Winter Haven: LaRue 8-16-100-0.
Receiving — Braden River: Michael Glover 4-51, Neasman-Glover 3-21, Mark McKoan 2-14, Quintin Jones 2-14. Winter Haven: Chris McGriff 2-41, Allen 3-26, Celiscar 1-19, Hawkins 1-10, Moseley 1-4.