BRADENTON — Braden River High coach Ed Volz doesn’t believe in moral victories.
Instead, he believes in getting his players to play for 48 minutes every week and preparing them for every opponent they face whether it’s a district foe or one of the top teams in the state.
So when the Pirates traveled to Joe Kinnan field last Friday for a non-district game against Class 5A powerhouse Manatee, they had one main goal — to force the Hurricanes to play their style of football, which includes running the football, controlling the clock and making big plays on both sides of the ball.
The Pirates (4-3) were able to do just that, holding the Hurricanes (6-0) to seven points through three quarters. But after remaining deadlocked at 7-7, Manatee capitalized on a Braden River turnover late in the fourth quarter as the Hurricanes went on to defeat the Pirates 14-7.
“This is the kind of game we’re going to have to play,” Volz said. “When you play up against a 5A powerhouse you’ve got to line up. You’ve got to punch them in the face, and you’ve got to be ready to do it for four quarters. We did that tonight. We just didn’t score enough points.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Manatee found the end zone on a 28-yard pass from Brion Carnes to Chase Sandberg with 4:58 to play in the second quarter. Braden River responded on its ensuing possession when backup quarterback Ryan Fischer scored from 2 yard out, capping off an 80-yard drive with 13.8 seconds to play in the first half.
Fischer came into the game during the Pirates opening possession after his older brother, Stephen, the Pirates’ starting quarterback, was injured on a quarterback sack. Stephen Fischer, who walked off the field, was transported to the hospital. The extent of Stephen Fischer’s injury was unknown at the conclusion of the game.
Braden River threatened again in the third quarter, but a pair of penalties stalled the drive, forcing the Pirates to punt the ball away. Four plays later, the Pirates blocked a Manatee punt and recovered the ball at their own 46-yard line. But the call would be overturned. According to the officials, the ball crossed the line of scrimmage and was touched by Braden River’s Ty Williams. The play was ruled a muffed punt with Manatee recovering the ball and assuming possession.
The Hurricanes gained momentum midway through the fourth quarter when Shaunski Lawrence intercepted a Ryan Fischer pass and returned it to the Braden River 25-yard line. Manatee found the end zone two plays later on a 20-yard touchdown run by Craig Carnes with 5:19 left to play.
Braden River attempted to rally late in the fourth quarter, driving to the Manatee 20-yard line with a little more than a minute to play, but the Pirates were unable to capitalize on a pair of Ryan Fischer passes.
Senior running back Tevin Bryant finished with 166 yards on 34 carries, and Ryan Fischer rushed for 48 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, the Pirates held the Hurricanes to just 127 yards through the air and 55 yards on the ground. It was the first time Manatee had been held under 30 points all season.
“We gave ourselves a chance in the fourth quarter to make a couple plays, and toward the end there, we had two turnovers, which are big and that certainly hurt us,” Volz said. “Defense played unbelievable. Offense played the way we needed to play. We needed to make a couple more plays, but I’m proud of the kids.”
The Pirates are off next Friday and will return to action Oct. 30 against Booker in a Class 3A-District 10 contest. The two teams have never met on the gridiron, and the winner could gain a slight advantage in the district standings. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
The Tornadoes (2-4, 1-1 3A-10) were off last week and will host Southeast next Friday. Through the first six games of the season, Booker’s opponents have outscored the Tornadoes 200-137.
The Pirates will need strong performances by Bryant and Ryan or Stephen Fischer, depending on who gets the start under center.
Defensively, the Pirates, who have held their opponents to an average of 16 points a game, will need to contain quarterback Jamaine Leverette, who has thrown for nearly 800 yards on the season, wide receiver Ricky Jones Jr. and tandem running backs Jeff Callahan and Maurice Brooks.
“We’re going to have to be physical,” Volz said. “We’re going to have to run the football. And we’re going to have to make plays when we get them.
“This is who we are,” he said. “This is who we needed to be. And this is who we said we would be, and we’re going to give ourselves a chance every Friday night if we play like this.”
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Braden River 0 7 0 0 — 7
Manatee 0 7 0 7 — 14
M — Chase Sandberg 28 pass from Brion Carnes (Colby Lengel kick), 4:58
BR — Ryan Fischer 2 run (Kadin Kerns kick), 13.8
M — Craig Carnes 20 run (Lengel kick), 5:19