EAST MANATEE -- The Braden River football team is no longer the new kid on the block.
Right now, the Pirates own the block.
They dismantled a good Arcadia DeSoto team that came to Braden River on Friday night with a district championship and a 7-1 record.
But the Bulldogs were no match for Braden River, which improved 9-0 to become the first team in the program's history to finish the regular season undefeated.
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DeSoto came into the game averaging 31 points per game and had not scored fewer than 15 points in any game. But the Bulldogs managed only 103 total yards and were denied the end zone.
It was the third shutout of the season for Braden River, which used its reserves to stop DeSoto inside the Pirates' 5-yard line when the game ended.
The Pirates won the Class 7A-District 10 championship last week in a showdown with Palmetto.
Two years ago, in Curt Bradley's first year as head coach, the Pirates were 1-9. Last year, they were 5-4. Next Friday, they will play host to Pinellas Park in a Class 7A-Region 3 quarterfinal.
The Pirates sat out some key players whom the coaches felt needed another week to get healthy for the playoffs. But the goal of finishing unbeaten was paramount.
"The game plan was to come out in the first half and play to win and get as many people in the second half as we could so we could go into next week healthy," Bradley said. "But you don't need a second bye and lose your momentum going into the playoffs. To get the shutout was awesome for the group of kids who were out there."
This game had a little bit of a Hollywood script to it.
The Pirates pulled quarterback Jacob Huesman at the beginning of the fourth quarter to avoid any freak injury for next week.
Travis Williams, a starting receiver, went in at quarterback and scored two touchdowns on dazzling runs in the final period. He broke free for a 35-yard scamper and, with a little more than eight minutes left, took off on 70-yard run to account for the final score.
"The offensive line did an incredible job of blocking. The outside receivers led the way, and I followed them. To finish undefeated means a lot to the town and the program," Williams said.
Braden River punted on its first possession of the game, but DeSoto fumbled the ball. Caleb Ford recovered for the Pirates, and two plays later Jaylin Austin ran 28 yards for a touchdown.
The Pirates stopped DeSoto on the ensuing possession, thanks to a sack by Dylan Tyson on a third-down play. Braden River then went 83 yards on eight plays with Raymond Thomas taking it in from 4 yards out. A 20-yard pass from Huesman to Williams helped spark the drive.
Austin scored from seven yards out with 15 seconds left in the second quarter to give the Pirates a 21-0 halftime lead.
The victory was especially sweet for senior Carlos Crawford, who rushed for 56 yards on 22 carries. He was on that 1-9 team when things looked bleak.
"To finish 9-0 is the best feeling in the world coming from where we were. We never stopped practicing hard, even through the ups and downs," Crawford said. "We never stopped believing. For us to actually fulfill a perfect season is amazing."
The Pirates picked up two points on a safety when Tyson tackled DeSoto quarterback Niron Washington in the end zone for a 23-0 lead in the third quarter.