Tears, hugs and sitting on the turf long after the final whistle was heard. That was the scene at Pirate Stadium for Braden River's football program last Friday as the Pirates exited the playoffs in the state semifinal round to Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, 27-10. It's a scene that happens for every sport in every season at all levels.
But Numbers Game isn't ending the football season before glancing at some important digits from last week's inaugural foray into the Final Four.
Here we go:
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Approximate attendance for Braden River's first Class 7A state semifinal appearance last Friday in East Manatee County. Athletic director Matt Nesser also said it's probably the highest attended of all-time.
The 4,000 estimate also included the visiting side as Aquinas brought multiple buses full of fans, which saw Dallas Cowboys legend Michael Irvin on the sideline as well as a slew of area coaches taking in the action. Aquinas won the battle 27-10 to book a berth into this Friday's 7A championship against Melbourne Viera, which had never won a playoff game before this year.
Seniors departing off this year's Braden River football team that cranked out 13 straight victories, before falling to Aquinas on Friday.
Fifteen of the 19 were starters. Five came off the stout defense, which allowed just 129 points in 14 games this year and accrued 28 interceptions during that span. They're losing two off the secondary (A.J. Moore and JoJo Louis, who is a hybrid that also plays nickel linebacker), two linebackers (Chase Balliette and Ronnie McClellan) and one off the
defensive line (Dylan Tyson).
On offense, nine starters were seniors. Quarterback Jacob Huesman, running back Dexter Hodo, wide receiver Travis Williams, wide receiver/running back Jaylin Austin, tight end Ryan Neuzil and offensive lineman Alex Salguero, Josh Williams, Brett Farley and Michael Walker.
Hodo started as a slot receiver during the first part of the season when junior tailback Raymond Thomas was healthy. Neuzil also was the team's punter, while kicker Kyle Thoma is a senior, too.
Average yards per carry for Aquinas in the 7A semifinal victory at Braden River. The Pirates thwarted the Raiders' high-octane rushing attack, which entered last Friday's tilt averaging 8.38 yards per carry in three previous playoff games that exceeded 250 rushing yards each game.
While Aquinas scored a 331-219 advantage in total offensive yards, the real damage came with Braden River's turnovers.
Huesman fumbled and threw two interceptions, while a fake punt and another failed fourth down conversion attempt yielded two turnovers on downs. Huesman also was sacked three times, facing constant pressure from Aquinas' defense, unlike what happened most of the season for the Florida International University-bound signal-caller.
Braden River's winning percentage under head coach Curt Bradley, who took over the program in 2012. The Pirates went 1-9 in his first season, dropping the first nine games of his tenure. Then they gradually improved, going 6-4 in Year Two, 10-1 in the third season that included the first unbeaten regular season and district championship in program history and then they went 13-1 this season that included the program's first regional championship and state semifinal appearance. The incredible turnaround yielded only two defeats in the last two seasons, and 20 straight regular season victories.
Players that exited the Aquinas loss due to injuries. Defensive end Chase Knopf was down for roughly 30 minutes, before being stretchered off after a scary collision on a tackle in the third quarter. He signaled the crowd with a thumbs up, and used Twitter to express that he had strained muscle in his neck. Linebacker Ronnie McClellan missed the entire second half due to a strained neck and pulled muscles.
The number two also signifies how many programs remain this postseason in search of a first state championship. Viera is looking for it in 7A against Aquinas, while Pembroke Pines Flanagan aims for their maiden state football title against Kissimmee Osceola.
Standing for Manatee County in the all-time list for state football championships. The county is tied with Okaloosa County for 10th place with eight state titles, apiece. Miami-Dade County tops the list with 33 state football championships after Miami Booker T. Washington snagged a state-record tying fourth straight crown last weekend. Miami Central is looking to join Booker T. Washington with four straight in this week's Class 6A final against Seffner Armwood.
Jason Dill, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7017 or via email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jason__Dill and like his Facebook page at Jason Dill Bradenton Herald.