- March 22, 2017
Braden River senior running back Raymond Thomas said his mind was blank, but it wasn't.
In the aftermath of the Pirates' season-ending, 64-42 loss to host Venice Nov. 18, he managed to find his words despite the heartbreak.
“I don’t know what’s going through my mind,” Thomas said after rushing for 113 yards and three touchdowns while catching three passes for 65 yards. "I’m going to remember it all.
"I’ve been through so much with this team. Torn ACL (last season), coming back and playing with these guys. It’s what I loved doing.”
Thomas arrived at Braden River in head coach Curt Bradley's second season, when the Pirates went 5-4. In the following three seasons, Braden River lost just one regular season game and last year went to the final four of the state.
The Pirates won't get that opportunity this season, and the graduating Thomas won't get another chance.
"It's over," Thomas said before walking off the field.
Thomas' senior teammates felt the same, unable to absorb the tremendous overall success of the program on an unsuccessful night.
The realization their career was over started to materialize in the fourth quarter, when it became apparent the game had been decided. Braden River's underclassmen went over to their seniors and gave them comfort in the form of full-on bear hugs.
By the time the scoreboard clock read all zeroes, every Pirate had a tinge of red in his eyes.
Just like the regular-season game between the two teams, Braden River had no answer for the Indians’ impressive rushing attack. Venice running back Matthew "Speedy" Laroche ran for 281 yards and three touchdowns, while quarterback Bryce Carpenter racked up 267 rushing yards and tied the school record with six touchdowns.
“They did a little bit of everything,” Braden River coach Curt Bradley said of the Venice offense. “Their offensive line did a great job of getting up to the second level, covering up our linebackers. Obviously, they have some skilled ballplayers that were getting loose out there.”
Braden River finished its season 9-2.
Quarterback Louis Colosimo was not around for the early struggles like Thomas. He transferred from IMG Academy to Braden River before this season for a chance to be a starter. He made the most of his opportunity, putting up bigger and better numbers as the season progressed. For someone who made a lot of memories in a short amount of time, the pain of losing hit deep.
“It’s just hard, you know?” Colosimo said. “We really came together so well. We worked our tails off. We put so much into it. It hurts. It’s over.
“I wouldn’t want to spend my senior year anywhere else.”
Colosimo said he’ll never forget the relationships he created with both his teammates and the coaching staff during his time at the school.
The future at Braden River is still bright. Next season, running back Deshaun Fenwick, defensive back Tyrone Collins and linebacker Chase Knopf will be seniors. Freshman tight end Travis Tobey played very well this year, and I expect him to grow into a nightmare matchup for defenses. As long as Bradley and offensive coordinator Eric Sanders are steering the Pirates’ ship, they will find success.
None of that hope will immediately heal the wounds inflicted by the Venice loss or console the departing seniors. For many of them, this will be the end of their competitive football careers. The sport they have been playing since Mighty Mites will no longer be a central part of their lives. The sport that molded them, and taught them how to be teammates, leaders, listeners and competitors is now part of their past.
It’s a tough thing, leaving behind what you love. Despite the heartbreak, these seniors saw unparalleled overall success, and that is something they can take with them for the rest of their lives.
“This is the winningest four-year group of guys that we’ve had (at Braden River),” Bradley said. “Went to the playoffs three times in four years. All the credit to those guys. I’m extremely proud of those young men.”