EAST MANATEE -- Both the Riverview Rams and the Braden River Pirates entered Friday Night's matchup winless, but both teams understood that one team would leave the field with a their first sweet taste of victory.
Riverview put forth a consistent, mistake-free performance en route to a 29-6 win.
Led by a relentless rushing effort from Karan Higdon and an impressive all-around performance from athlete Richie James, the Rams left little doubt that they are a much better squad than their record.
The offensive line opened gaping holes for Higdon all night, and he put in his share of the work in the form of yards after contact.
James left his mark on the stat sheet with 49 yards receiving and a touchdown, but his most impactful play of the night was his 88-yard punt return for a touchdown following Braden River's opening drive.
But the Pirates refused to let the quick score break their spirit, responding on the next drive when quarterback Eric Schappacher hit tailback Justin Ross on a screen pass which he took all the way for 67 yards.
Ross showed flashes of brilliance and resiliency all night in a game that was competitive throughout, acting as Braden River's workhorse in a game that netted him 53 tough-earned yards on the ground to pair with his long receiving touchdown. His strong effort was necessary to keep the Pirates in the game on a night Schappacher struggled, completing 2 of 13 passes for 74 yards and two interceptions, one of which came in the end zone in the first quarter.
The Rams had no intention of heading home as losers, however, a feeling that was made obvious by the offense's ability to capitalize on the three turnovers (three interceptions, one fumble recovery) their defense handed to them.
Quarterback Dom Marino complemented the running game with a savvy passing performance, completing a 35-yard touchdown pass to Richie James on the way to 168 yards and no turnovers for the night.
After Braden River's first score, the Rams' defense was stout, making sure that no one would cross the goal line.
Higdon and his offensive line did their part in icing a game, as he scored fou- yard touchdowns in the second and fourth quarter, both of which he attributed to his offensive line's blocking.
Riverview head coach Todd Johnson was most glad that his team was able to get a "taste of victory going into our district game in two weeks," but noted that "we obviously have a lot of areas to improve on."
Braden River head coach Curt Bradley was proud of the way his players played.
"I don't think a group of kids can play any harder than they did tonight, I mean they flat out played their hearts out," he said. "We bow down to nobody here, and we're going to continue to expect to win every time we step out on the football field."