EAST MANATEE — The Braden River Pirates were able to secure their first victory of the season Friday, beating Naples Palmetto Ridge 28-7.
They ran the ball effectively and controlled the clock as they rode senior Austin Rain and sophomore Justin Ross to victory. They ran the ball early and often, choosing a conservative approach that forced the defense to bring defenders up, only to burn them on touchdowns to Ross and Zac D'urso.
The Bears could not find much rhythm and were playing catch-up the whole second half as uarterback Sean Hatch threw for 105 yards and an interception.
Braden River (1-9) showed it was all in on its first scoring play as quarterback Dusty Peebles threw a perfect pass down the left sideline to Ross to convert a 4th-and-23.
The student section erupted, setting the tone for the defense, which held Palmetto Ridge scoreless for the first quarter.
The Pirates established momentum when Peebles connected with Zac D'urso on a 33-yard scoring pass, but the Bears put together an effective drive in response and capped it off with a 6-yard Ron Johnson spin and run into the endzone.
With time dwindling before the half, it appeared the Pirates were going to let the clock run down when Peebles dropped back and placed a precisely thrown pass into the outstretched
hands of Ross, who continued streaking down the sideline for 58 yards and a 21-7 halftime lead.
The second half would prove to be a defensive struggle, as seniors Matt Mckoan and Ryan Hintze each recorded sacks and both teams were held scoreless in the third quarter.
Coach Curt Bradley pointed to the performance of Ross, who accounted for three touchdowns and 149 total yards as a crucial reason for the win.
"He did a great job, he ran the ball well for us, made a couple catches," Bradley said, "and the seniors stepped up and made some big plays to carry us the rest of the way."
It was Bradley's first win at Braden River.
"Now that we have the groundwork laid with the seniors," he said, "an offseason with the kids can help us build on that foundation."