With a new quarterback in junior Clayton Dees and a new confidence coming off a 51-29 thrashing of Cardinal Mooney in the season-opener, it appeared the Lakewood Ranch High football team had a shot to end its losing streak against crosstown rival Braden River High.
The Pirates had beaten the Mustangs six straight games coming into the Sept. 9 showdown at Lakewood Ranch High, but after Dees and senior running back Kevin Everhart, who scored on a five-yard run, led the Mustangs down the field on the game's opening possession, the home crowd was chanting "Sink the ship."
The rest of the night, however, was a cruise for the Pirates, who scored the next 33 points to finish with a 33-14 win.
"This (rivalry) was the first team we ever played as a staff and it did not end well for us," Braden River Head Coach Curt Bradley said, referencing his team's 21-7 loss in 2012. "We know what this means for the football teams, and also the schools. This game means a lot. It had great attendance even in the rain.
"This is not an easy place to play. We didn't start out well tonight, but the kids responded after that."
Bradley said Mustangs Head Coach Rashad West has done a fine job building his program and said this year's team is much improved from previous Mustangs teams, even if the final score was not indicative of that improvement.
That wasn't any consolation to West.
"We had some opportunities when the game was still in the balance and they made more plays than we did," West said. "They got after us on both lines of scrimmage. Give them credit. They played well and we're going back to the drawing board. It's frustrating to lose any game, whether it's against Braden River or not. We have to figure it out."
While West has made many positive changes, it was apparent Lakewood Ranch has more work to do to approach the Pirates' level.
A late Everhart touchdown was Lakewood Ranch's final touchdown.
The Pirates maintained control of the "Steering Wheel Trophy" the two school created for the rivalry for the seventh straight time the teams met.
While Lakewood Ranch displayed some impressive skill position players, Braden River was dominant on the offensive and defensive lines.
On offense, Braden River pushed Lakewood Ranch around to open wide holes for running backs Trayvon Pinder (197 yards rushing, three touchdowns). Roy Burchett also scored a touchdown for Braden River.
Braden River's defensive line, meanwhile, pressured Dees all night and kept him from getting comfortable in the pocket.
Lakewood Ranch will not have a potential game in the postseason as Lakewood Ranch is a Suburban 4 team and Braden River is a Suburban 3 team.
Dees, who threw for 424 yards and six touchdowns in the opener, and the Mustangs will be looking to regain the form they showed against Cardinal Mooney when they travel to Celebration (0-3) on Sept. 16.
Braden River (3-0) clashes with Manatee (3-0) in a battle of unbeatens at Braden River High.