Notice the giant, inflatable white helmet at Braden River home football games?
Notice Metallica's "Enter Sandman" booming over the stadium's speakers?
That's where the Pirates bunch together, and it's what they hear as they explode through the tunnel created on the field by the cheerleaders as they run toward the sideline.
The two items combined with a vibrant Section E, where Braden River students congregate, makes for a distinct home field advantage.
The atmosphere alone doesn't win games for the Pirates, nor is it something unique to Braden River High, as other area high schools use music and props to get fired up for their field entrance.
The song "Thunderstruck," by AC/DC, while bursting through a banner are popular choices.
That's kind of the point of playing at home in football. Unlike baseball parks, which can be different dimensions and have different nooks and crannies that give an advantage to the home team that is used to playing there, football fields are always the same width and length. There's no unique design to give the home team the edge.
So when the Pirates blew out Naples Gulf Coast in the first round of the Florida High School Athletic Association football playoffs and blanked Venice last Friday, it was a peculiar sight to not see the aforementioned giant white helmet or one of Metallica's trademark songs serenading the home team.
Those things aren't allowed for the playoffs.
Because why would a district champion, one that earned the right to host back-to-back playoff games, want to have the perks of having that home-field advantage?
Rule 10.8 (Neutrality) in the FHSAA football manual is the culprit. It reads:
"It is the responsibility of the host school to ensure that an atmosphere of neutrality is maintained in all Florida High School State Championship Series events. Such events are not "home contests" for the host schools. Special festivities held as part of, or in conjunction with, regular season home contests (i.e., pregame activities designed to rally support for the home team, such as light shows, or giving special recognition to members of the home team) are not permitted during the Florida High School State Championship Series."
Way to dampen the mood! Let's just zap all the electricity out of the air for the sake of fairness!
"In a game where you have a district champion playing, maybe, a runner-up, then I think home-field advantage should be like home-field advantage," Braden River athletic director Matt Nesser said. "But FHSAA rules, you're really just hosting the event is what they're saying. So that's the difference there."
Braden River tight end Ryan Neuzil was a key force in two scoring drives in the first half of the Pirates' 17-0 victory over Venice. He wasn't reliant on the music or the giant helmet that were there during the regular season.
Because, Neuzil said, he just needs Dylan Tyson, one of Braden River's defensive lineman and the apparent hype man for the club.
"We don't need the helmet or the songs, we just need a good Section E and Dylan Tyson," said Neuzil, who caught two key passes for 62 yards in the victory over Venice.
Mix in defensive back/linebacker JoJo Louis leading the way with his dance moves in the vein of former Baltimore Raven two-time Super Bowl champion Ray Lewis, and the Pirates were plenty pumped for the Venice rematch --
despite an unusually subdued crowd against Gulf Coast the prior week.
But taking that home-field edge away from a team that earned the right to play at home, that's where the FHSAA gets it wrong.
What's next, awarding everyone a trophy just for participating in the playoffs? Might as well make duplicates of those state title trophies for all the member schools. You know, in the interest of fairness.
Jason Dill, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7017 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Jason__Dill and like his Facebook page at Jason Dill Bradenton Herald.