EAST MANATEE -- On a night when it could have been caught looking ahead, the Braden River football team showed it knows how to stay focused.
The Pirates dominated both sides of the ball to secure a 23-0 victory over Southeast on Friday night. It marked Braden River's first home victory over the Seminoles and first time it has opened up the season at 3-0 under head coach Curt Bradley.
The Pirates begin district play next Friday against archrival Lakewood Ranch, which recently has had its way in the series that annually draws the biggest crowd for both schools.
Braden River used a running-back-by-committee approach, led by Carlos Crawford, and rode the arm of quarterback Jacob Huesman, who threw for 179 yards and two touchdowns.
"We gave up some yards, but didn't break defensively," Bradley said. "We have an experienced offensive line with some size, and if we can stay healthy we will be OK. We kind of wore Southeast out. We put some long drives together, and we are able to finish off in the
Crawford did most of his damage in the first half, when he ran for 71 yards on 12 carries and scored the first touchdown on a 15-yard run on Braden River's first possession. The Pirates added three more points on a Kyle Thoma 32-yard field goal to take a 9-0 halftime lead. Southeast was limited to 61 yards of offense in the first half.
The Seminoles (0-3) look rejuvenated to start the second half, when they used 13 plays to drive from their own 20 to the Braden River 19. The bulk of the yardage was picked up by sophomore Qion Burch, who gained 46 yards.
Southeast, which has hurt itself all season with turnovers and troubles snapping the ball, hit the wall again.
On a second and 14 from the Braden River 19, James Thomas threw a pass that was picked off by JoJo Louis, who returned two interceptions for touchdowns last week.
Braden River responded with a 10-play, 67-yard drive capped off by a 16-yard touchdown pass from Huesman to Justin Ross to give the Pirates a 16-0 lead with 3:07 left in the third period.
On Braden River's next possession, Huesman connected with Travis Williams for a 13-yard touchdown seven seconds into the final period.
Southeast put together another good drive. This time ,the Seminoles used 13 plays to travel from their 23 to the Braden River 2-yard line. But mistakes did them in again.
On a third and goal from the 2, Thomas was in the shotgun and the snap from center sailed by him, ending the drive.
"We played hard. We still made some mistakes, but not as many, and we are cleaning that aspect up," Southeast head coach John Warren said. "The best thing is that we can't let this snowball on us. Our kids have to put their foot to the ground and move forward.
"Burch is a good player. He was doing things that we know he can do. We found some things that work tonight and some things we need to work on. We just got to be able to punch it in when we get close."
Burch turned in the best game of his young career with 90 yards on 22 carries, picking up 62 in the second half. Thomas had 65 yards on 16 carries.
Raymond Thomas added to Braden River's ground game with 46 yards on nine carries. Jaylin Austin picked up 27 yards and Huesman had 20 yards. Ross led Braden with seven catches for 108 yards.