BRADEN RIVER — The Pirates wanted last week’s win against DeSoto County High ever since the two teams walked off the field last November.
Last year, with a 14-7 come-from-behind victory in the second round of the state playoffs, the Bulldogs moved on to the regional finals, while Braden River saw its historic playoff run come to an end.
Fast-forward 11 months, and the sting of that loss still lingered in the Pirates locker room. So it’s not at all surprising that Braden River pegged last Friday’s game as one of defining must-win games of the season.
And the Pirates couldn’t have scripted it more perfectly. In front of a blacked out Homecoming crowd, Braden River crushed its former district foe with a 34-13 victory.
“We’ve been looking forward to this game since right after they beat us in November, so we’ve been pretty pumped for this game all week,” senior Casey Hunt said. “It means a lot coming out here and getting a great win (like this).”
Braden River got off to a fast start thanks in part to sophomore quarterback Ryan Fischer, who once again got the call under center, filling in for his older brother, Stephen, who passed out from dehydration brought on from a recurring illness the day before.
With a little more than a day to prepare, the younger Fischer made the most of the opportunity, throwing for three first-half touchdowns to give the Pirates a 20-0 lead.
“I’m proud of him,” coach Ed Volz said of Fischer. “He’s a tough kid mentally and what’s great about him is that he loves the game of football. He’s just passionate about it. You love coaching kids like that.”
Two weeks after making his first varsity start at Sarasota, where he completed 4-of-10 passes with a touchdown and an interception, Fischer seemed more at ease in the pocket.
“I was (nervous), but I didn’t say anything,” Fischer said. “I like the fame though, so I was kind of glad that I got to play in the Homecoming game.”
Fischer capped off three of the Pirates’ first four possessions with touchdown passes of 53, 20 and 28 yards, respectively. But no matter how well the offense performed, Fischer was quick to acknowledge a lights-out defensive effort, in which the Pirates forced five fumbles and an interception.
“The defense was incredible,” Fischer said. “The offense did well, but the defense (seemed) to stop (Marcus) Shaw every time he ran. It was unbelievable.”
After allowing 423 yards and three touchdowns to Shaw last season, the Pirates focused much of their attention on stopping the standout tailback. Braden River’s effort paid off as the Pirates held Shaw to 117 yards and a touchdown.
“This defense sets the tone for us, and I think they create an environment of tough physical football,” Volz said.
The Pirates took control of the game early on when Fischer connected with Michael Glover on a 53-yard strike. Braden River further extended its lead on 20-and-28-yard touchdown passes from Fischer to Sharrod Neasman-Glover and Quintin Jones, respectively.
Braden River further extended its lead with 4:04 remaining in the first half when Tevin Bryant ran 20 yards down the sideline for a touchdown. DeSoto was able to get onto the scoreboard on a 10-yard run by Shaw as time expired, giving Braden River a 27-6 halftime lead.
The Bulldogs once again found the end zone midway through the fourth quarter on a 1-yard carry by Anthony Campbell. The Pirates responded with a touchdown of their own on a 31-yard run by Bryant.
With the win, Braden River earned its first victory over DeSoto, showing just how far the Pirates have come in just a short amount of time. In 2007, the Bulldogs handed the Pirates a 34-3 loss in their first district game. Last year, DeSoto defeated Braden River 42-28 during the regular season before edging past the Pirates in the playoffs.
“This program has been on a progression and they, having been in our district, sort of were the benchmark,” Volz said.
The Pirates and the Bulldogs are no longer in the same district, making this year’s win that much sweeter and giving Braden River an extra dose of momentum as it heads into tomorrow’s district contest against Southeast.
The Seminoles, coming off a 34-10 loss to Venice, have had the Pirates’ number the past two seasons, edging past the Pirates 44-15 and 34-0 in their two previous meetings. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].
D 0 6 0 7 — 13
BR 7 20 0 7 — 34
BR — Michael Glover 53 pass from Ryan Fischer (Kadin Kerns kick), 6:41
BR — Sharrod Neasman-Glover 20 pass from Fischer (Kerns kick), 10:11
BR — Quintin Jones 28 pass from Fischer (kick failed), 9:04
BR — Tevin Bryant 20 run (Kerns kick), 4:04
D — Marcus Shaw 10 run (kick failed), 0:01
D — Anthony Campbell 1 run (Ivan Velasquez kick), 6:38
BR — Bryant 31 run (Kerns kick), 3:36