A look at the Braden River football team, coached by Don Purvis.
NEED A BIG SEASON FROM: Ryan Fischer, jr., QB
There is a new coach, a new offense and only three returning starters on offense. Also gone is Tevin Bryant, who was virtually the Pirates entire offense last season (1,613 rushing yards), went over 100 yards nine times and led Manatee County in rushing. That leaves everything in the hands of Fischer, who took over the QB job around mid season last year when his older brother was injured.
The junior is not real big, not necessarily quick and doesn’t have the strongest arm. But new coach Don Purvis says he has all those intangibles that winners possess.
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Last year, Fischer completed 27 of 58 passes for 562 yards with eight TD passes and four interceptions and rushed for 257 yards (3.6 avg), though those numbers might be deceiving because of the sacks he took.
His main job last season was to hand the ball off to Bryant and try sneak in some passes every so often. This year he will be expected to put more on his shoulders, but he should have a good running back in Jaredd Pate, who averaged 5.8 yards per carry and looked good in the Pirates full dress scrimmage at Raymond James Stadium in the spring when he eclipsed 100 yards despite playing only about half the game.
Purvis plans to open up the offense and hopes to have a better balance between passing and running. Fischer and Pate are keys to whether the change is successful, but they will have help on the offensive line with returning starters Dakota Wilson (6-1, 215) and Dillon Romine (6-7, 255). Filling the rest of the offensive front will take some time. The coach is hoping Fischer can make things flow smoothly, particularly in the beginning of the season, with his ability to read defenses and take advantage of an opponent’s weakness.
He lost his leading receiver Sharrod Neasman-Glover, but Michael Glover, who led the Pirates in TD receptions (4) and was second in receptions and receiving yardage, returns. They moved the ball fairly well against Sarasota Riverview in the spring game and Purvis feels confident things will smooth out as they get familiar with the offense.
FILLING THE VOID: Jaredd Pate, sr, RB
Pate has some big shoes to fill in replacing Bryant, who was a one man wrecking crew with his durability and ability to smash through defenses that knew he was going to carry the ball almost every time. Pate might have a little more speed, but it remains to be seen whether he has the power and vision that made Bryant so proficient. He showed some of his potential last year in the Pirates playoff win over Winter Haven when he rushed for 56 yards and scored a touchdown. He is top returning rusher with 291 yards (5.8 avg).
DEEP AT: LB
The Pirates aren’t really deep anywhere with only three starters returning on defense and three on offense. The anchor of the defense is linebacker Keith Grafton and he should get some help from offensive lineman Dakota Wilson, who is slated to go both ways and will see action at linebacker.
THIN AT: DB
Again, the Pirates are thin everywhere, but the biggest concern is in the secondary where Ben Peacock is the only returning starter. All the other positions in the back four are up for grabs with Peacock slated to play either cornerback or safety. To make matters worse, Chris Calloway, the Pirates top retuning DB, transferred to Palmetto. Durrell Dowling could help because of his coverage skills and physical play.
IMPACT NEWCOMER: Jamal Kearney, jr. DE
There are 16 positions that need to be filled by new starters so any of a number of them could become an impact player. But heading into the season, Kearney appears to be the favorite. He has impressed the coaching staff with his aggressive play on defense and will likely also be used at tight end.
COACH QUANDRY: ROAD WEARY BLUES
If he didn’t have enough obstacles with a team hit so hard by graduation, Purvis inherits a schedule with six road games because of a previous agreement to travel to Venice in back to back years. Pirates play four of their first five games away and have Manatee as their homecoming game. Whoever made up this schedule sure didn’t show any mercy for this young team that will go through enough growing pains without being put into the meat grinder.
CAMP STOCK: Up
Wilson is the spiritual leader of the team and is expected to be a force on both sides of the ball. He is the perfect complement to Romine on the offensive line and Grafton in the linebacker corps and will help the younger players stay focused. Deon Taylor has also looked good at DE to give the Pirates “D” two good bookends.
CAMP STOCK: Down
Lack of experience up and down the roster will be the biggest hurdle as a new coach tries to install new offensive and defensive schemes. Defense got pushed around in spring game loss to Sarasota Riverview but Purvis said that was more due to keeping things simple than lack of ability. Patience will be needed with so little experience.
KEY GAME: Oct. 8 vs Southeast
The Pirates have never beaten Southeast and if they want to win their district this is a must win because the ‘Noles are the best in Class 3A-10. But for very personal reasons, another big game for the players is Sarasota because they want to get back at former head coach Ed Volz, who left them after only a year to become the Sailors head coach.
Sept 4 at Lakewood Ranch
Sept 10 at Venice
Sept 17 SARASOTA
Sept 24 at Bayshore
Oct 1 at DeSoto
Oct 8 SOUTHEAST
Oct 15 MANATEE
Oct 29 at Booker
Nov 5 LEMON BAY
Nov 12 at Palmetto
LAKEWOOD RANCH W, 43-14
at Venice L, 28-20
at Sarasota W, 22-13
BAYSHORE W, 39-0
DESOTO W, 34-13
at Southeast L, 33-6
at Manatee L, 14-7
BOOKER W, 35-28
at Lemon Bay W, 48-8
PALMETTO L, 7-3
CLASS 3A PLAYOFFS
at Winter Haven W, 24-21
LAKE WALES L, 21-14
BY THE NUMBERS
6: Pirates to play 6 road games because of agreement it made to go to Venice back to back.
3: Don Purvis is the Pirates third head coach in three years
16: Number of starting positions left vacant from last year
ON THE WEB
Don Purvis, first season