Prep football | District play comes early for Bradenton Christian Panthers

Seven-team district presents BCS with long road

jdill@bradenton.comSeptember 5, 2013 

Bradenton Christian's Joey Giardina runs the ball and dodges Saint Stephens' defense Friday night. TIFFANY TOMPKINS-CONDIE/Bradenton Herald

TTOMPKINS@BRADENTON.COM Buy Photo

BRADENTON -- History was made last week when Bradenton Christian defeated Out-of-Door Academy for the first time.

But there is precious little time to bask in the moment as the Panthers become the first team this prep football season to begin district competition, games that determine playoff fates come mid-November.

BCS (1-0) has never played in the postseason, but the Panthers can start pushing toward that goal Friday at home against Tampa Cambridge.

"They all have to be important, but for our team and our program, this is a big week," BCS head coach Allan Gerber said. "This is the second building block into what are, ultimately, our goals. ... This week is district week. So it counts for those standings. It really does. It counts, because playing Cambridge, especially in district play, has been very competitive for us. It's gone back and forth. There's not been one team or another to dominate, and it's one that both teams kind of get jacked up to play."

Cambridge is one of the six Class 2A-District 5 opponents for BCS.

And the Lancers pose an immediate threat to the Panthers' quest for that elusive playoff berth.

With 6-foot-1 junior quarterback Garrett Young at the helm and healthy following an injury that cut his sophomore season short, Cambridge is poised to give BCS a battle.

The Panthers' pass defense was stout against the young Thunder on the road in a 38-9 victory, with Doug Pace returning an interception 54 yards for a touchdown and Sinclair Laskett hauling in a pick as well.

BCS held ODA's aerial game to just 67 yards, but the Panthers will get a bigger test from Young, who threw for 400 yards and eight TDs against small school power St. Petersburg Admiral Farragut in the spring.

"Their quarterback is dynamite," Gerber said.

This year, the Panthers boast a larger roster, which helps keep players fresh for the fourth quarter. The different personnel and looks paid dividends early, especially in the running game, against ODA.

Using Lance Perkins, the team's senior leader at linebacker, for a few carries in the beginning against the Thunder allowed a change of pace with Laskett and quarterback Joey Giardina when their numbers were called.

Laskett tallied a game-high 109 rushing yards and three scores, while Giardina scratched out 106 yards from his quarterback spot.

"I had three TDs, and Joey did his thing when he ran the ball," Laskett said. "You can go to either one of those guys when it comes to running, and we have the ability to do it."

But that was last week, and the season within the season starts Friday against a district foe.

The district became easier for BCS to navigate when Admiral Farragut, which made the 2A state title game in 2011, was assigned to a different district last year.

"It's a district game that means something to us," linebacker Paul Smith said. "It means one step forward to state championship or playoffs. Trying to get to that final mark that we've been striving to get to."

Despite the Blue Jackets' absence, the task of getting through the gauntlet and playing games that count toward your chance at the playoffs as early as the second week, when the bigger schools can ease into their schedules with district games slated for later in the year, is a tough one to navigate.

The Panthers have just two non-district matchups left on their docket this term, meaning the club faces must-win situations practically every week.

"Every week is a playoff week," Gerber said. "You have to win every week in order to get your chance at the big prize. ... The reality of it is we cannot hiccup, we cannot blink. We have to prepare like it's the last game you'll ever play each and every week."

Bradenton Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service