EAST MANATEE -- New Braden River head football coach Curt Bradley doesn't have to motivate his players this week.
A simple case of math took care of that.
No one on Bradley's roster has ever beaten Lakewood Ranch in football. His players are hungry and frustrated, especially the seniors who were in eighth grade the last time the Pirates came out victorious against their archrivals.
The two teams meet tonight in Lakewood Ranch.
"I have friends on Lakewood Ranch, but on Friday night they are not my friends. They are my enemies," two-way lineman Trevon Young said. "The game means a lot for a lot of reasons. I want to beat them before I graduate, and a win can set the tone for a good season."
Kelvin Albritton, who will be playing in his third straight Braden River-Lakewood Ranch game, echoed those thoughts.
"I've never beaten Lakewood Ranch since I've been in high school. I don't want to end my career this way," he said. "Last year, they got up by a couple of touchdowns and our momentum seemed to die. But this team is different. Last year, we had bunch of self centered guys. This time we are not going to roll over. We are going to fight to the end."
The Pirates are hungry and overflowing with emotions, which Bradley says makes his job easier in some areas and perhaps difficult in others.
Braden River's fourth head coach in the past six years, Bradley has had to deal with a trust issue, particularly among the seniors. Albritton said he has done well.
"His momentum has carried over to the team. He is a good disciplinarian," the 6-foot, 210-pound offensive and defensive lineman said. "He has a dog house. If you are late to practice or get trouble at school, you are
in it. It means running after practice when everyone else goes home.'
The coach said keeping emotions from getting out of control can be a problem in a rivalry game. He played in his share of rivalry games in high school in Missouri and as a receiver at Northern Iowa.
"You don't have to worry about motivating kids. They are ready to go, but you have to keep emotions in check," Bradley says. "You have to keep emotions under control and make sure they are heading in the right direction. There is definitely a buzz in the air around here this week."
On the opposite side is Lakewood Ranch center Michael Farhat. He has never lost to Braden River and said that is a confidence-builder.
"It definitely gives me confidence because we have done it before and we can do it again," Farhat said. "It's our biggest rival, and everyone is always pumped up. Fans come up to you at school and say you better win. We bring intensity to every game, but for this game our crowd brings it and it excites us even more."
Farhat was in the stands as an eighth-grader the last time Braden River beat Lakewood Ranch. He was there to see his brother Matt, now a starting center at the University of Charleston (W.Va), and has a theory on what turned this rivalry around.
"We took those losses (to Braden River) to heart and took the attitude we don't want to lose again," Farhat said.
Though Ranch reached the playoffs last year as district runner-up and Braden River struggled with only three victories on the field, both teams are unknown quantities. The Mustangs are in a rebuilding year with a lot of inexperienced players, and the Pirates are going through a big change with a new coach.
"We are little banged, but our kids are smart," Bradley said. "They took the bull by the horns last week (in a Kickoff Classic win over Booker) and got the go-ahead touchdown. Last week was a first for everything for me with the first week of school. It was good to get all that stuff taken care of so now I am in a routine."
And now he is in a rivalry that might have an intensity he has never seen for high school football.