Prep football | Area loses five games to lightning, heavy rains

jdill@bradenton.comSeptember 7, 2013 

MANATEE -- Fans eagerly waited near the closed gates at Balvanz Stadium on Friday night, even with sprinkling rain joined by heavy thunder and lightning.

The inclement weather was enough for officials to postpone Bayshore's home football game against Sarasota. The Bruins and Sailors are scheduled to play their non-district game at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Balvanz Stadium.

"I've never been a part of one that has been canceled," Bayshore head coach Elijah Freeman said. "Typically, if we have had lightning delays, we go in and wait it out. But this thing looks like it's not going anywhere."

Bayshore's postponement wasn't the only one Friday.

Bradenton Christian's district opener against Tampa Cambridge was postponed until 7 p.m. Saturday, while Saint Stephen's is set to host Tampa Citrus Park Christian at 11 a.m. Saturday at Palma Sola Park.

In addition, two games -- Braden River at Port Charlotte and Cardinal Mooney at St. Petersburg Admiral Farragut -- were canceled with no make-up planned.

"Their field is pretty much under water," Cardinal Mooney head coach Josh Smithers said. "We decided to, basically, wait a couple days and get back on it. Obviously, we're not going to wait, if we couldn't do it (Saturday) morning. So they kind of made the decision, and I said OK."

The wet weather that fell at Bayshore was an additional reason to scrap Friday's game for more favorable conditions Saturday. The soggy field could cause injuries to the players at a higher rate, Freeman said.

IMG Academy, which plays its games across the street from Bayshore, got started about 90 minutes late. But IMG boasts a new stadium with a new drainage system.

"Also, if we get out there and we get a third of the way through the game, it lightnings, then we have to go back off the field, wait another 30 minutes, and then try to get kids back out and restart," Freeman said. "I think injuries happen when you stop, you're relaxing and then you're playing 30 minutes later. We don't want to risk injury."

So Bayshore's first-year head coach has to gather his troops to return to the field Saturday to face the unbeaten Sailors.

Having a tight turnaround and dealing with the elements isn't a new thing for Freeman's group so far this fall.

"We've had adversity since I stepped on this campus," Freeman said. "Rain seems to follow us. Whenever we step out onto the practice field, it rains or we get lightning. So we're used to the adversity. Now the guys were very excited and ready to go, so it is going to be a little different having to come out and play a full game in the morning."

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