- August 30, 2019
Sarasota High football's Oct. 21 game against Braden River High was not the first sign of the progress the Sailors (4-3) had made in 2022, but it might be the most obvious.
The Sailors beat the Pirates in dominant fashion, scoring on the game's first possession and never letting up until the clock hit zero for a 28-3 final score. The win snapped a seven-game losing streak to Braden River. Breaking that streak at all is a nice prize for coach Brody Wiseman, but it's not purely the result that was so impressive. It was how it happened.
The average margin of victory during the Pirates' streak over Sarasota was 22.7 points. That's quite a bit. It also makes sense. Braden River is a perennial playoff team. The Sailors have been in a rut. Wiseman said as much in his postgame talk.
"I have a lot of respect for Braden River," Wiseman said. "I've been here when we have gotten our ass kicked by them in the past. They do a great job. Their coaching staff, I actually have taken a lot from them, from what they have done over the years. For us to come out and play a quality team like that — what I consider to be a playoff team — and win in dominant fashion, that makes me proud of our kids and of everything we are doing in our program. It has been a long, long grind. I think we're starting to show the signs of turning the corner."
He's right. For the first time in years — since I have been on the sports beat, in all honesty — the Sailors went against a disciplined, talented team and always felt in control. It started on the first drive. Sailors sophomore quarterback Alexander Diaz found senior wideout Caleb Bradley on a post pattern, which Bradley took 57 yards for a score. The big play put the Pirates on their heels. They never recovered thanks to the Sailors defense playing with the stoutness of a brick wall.
Sarasota picked off Braden River junior quarterback Nick Trier three times, once each by senior defensive backs Joshua DeCrapio and Tyler Pack and junior defensive back Kyser Bordones. Each interception turned into a touchdown; in Bordones' case, he took it to the house himself. The Sailors also forced two fumbles late in the fourth quarter when the Pirates tried to mount a desperate comeback.
It should be noted that the Pirates were not at full strength. A handful of key players were either absent from the field or played banged up, including junior running back Trayvon Pinder, the team's best skill position player who left the game in the second half with an injury. But by the time he did, the game was no longer in doubt. Make no mistake: the Sailors earned this win. Braden River knows it.
"Sarasota outplayed us tonight," Pirates coach Curt Bradley said. "They're a good football team, much improved. The coaches have done a good job over there."
It was a show of potential hinted at by the Sailors' win 16-7 win against Palmetto High (5-3), another team talented enough to make playoff noise, on Sept. 16. But that game saw Palmetto take an early lead while Sarasota figured out its offense; the Sailors scored 16 unanswered points in the second half to win. Against Braden River, there was no need to figure anything out.
The Sailors are 4-3 against what Wiseman said is the toughest schedule he's put together since becoming the team's coach in 2020 and likely longer than that. It may not be on the level of schools such as Riverview or Venice, which always seek out competition equal to or better than themselves, but it's a step up. Unless the Sailors add a game the week of Nov. 5 to make up for one of the games lost to Hurricane Ian, the team's regular season will come to an end at 7:30 p.m. on Friday against Riverview (2-5) at home.
As Wiseman and the Sailors are aware, a game like the one against Braden River only matters if it becomes the norm, a building block to consistent excellence. And as good as it must have felt for the Sailors to break the Pirates' win streak, imagine how it would feel to break Riverview's? The Rams have beaten the Sailors in 10 consecutive meetings. That's a full decade of dominance. Last year, the rivalry game was the most hyped it had been in a few years, as the Sailors came into it 4-1 while the Rams were 5-1. The Rams won 35-0.
I don't know how this year's game will go. Yes, Riverview is 2-5, but the Rams have played a lot of tough opponents and they have improved in recent weeks. On Tuesday night, Riverview's offense finally came alive in a 41-21 road win over Charlotte High (0-7). They will also have the most talented player on the field — and on most fields — in junior defensive back/wideout Charles Lester III.
But the Sailors play as a team. Wiseman likes his guys. He believes in them now and knows the potential is there for them to get even better. The Sailors are playing just seven seniors. Everyone else should be back for another ride.
"There's another level," Wiseman said. "I want to see us taking steps toward that. But I feel like we have established a solid foundation that we can repeat year after year. We're establishing a brand of Sarasota football. The core things, you saw them (against Braden River)."
A quick start. A punishing defense. An ability to capitalize on scoring opportunities when given. Repeat those things, and another lengthy win streak might fall.