NEEDS A BIG SEASON FROM:
THE RUNNING BACKS
Head coach Curt Bradley's fourth season features the most experienced group in his tenure. And the Pirates will lean on two veterans in the ground game. Raymond Thomas and Jaylin Austin were part of Braden River's three-headed rushing attack last fall.
Carlos Crawford's graduation means Thomas and Austin will get between eight and 10 more touches this season.
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In 2014, Braden River produced 210 rushing yards a game, with Thomas racking up a career-high 156 rushing yards in the Pirates' first-round playoff victory over Largo Pinellas Park.
"Jaylin's just got so much speed," Bradley said. "We try to get him on the perimeter. ... He's kind of the home run hitter, where Ray may be even smaller, but he's real powerful and catches the ball well out of the backfield. He can kind of carry the load as well."
This season, Thomas and Austin are entering as upper classmen with more bulk. The extra muscle added through offseason weight training is expected to help against the tougher Class 7A competition.
In the Pirates' regional semifinal defeat against powerhouse Tarpon Springs East Lake, Braden River was limited to 69 rushing yards. Thomas and Austin netted just 22 rushing yards.
"That's been on our mind all summer," Thomas said. "We're ready."
With an experienced offensive line -- the Pirates return three starters off last season's undefeated regular season team in Alex Salguero, Barrett Farley and Josh Williams -- the holes should be plenty for Thomas and Austin. Whether or not they are efficient in reading them should determine Braden River's offensive success this fall.
WINGMAN: Ryan Neuzil, sr., tight end
The 6-foot-2, 230-pounder is a big target for quarterback Jacob Huesman, who threw only three interceptions last year, and he moves well.
"He's kind of that outlet," Bradley said. "Some of those guys in the NFL always have that guy they can get the ball to when they need to, and they'll come down with it. He's kind of our sure-handed, safety player that when we need to get the ball to him, he's going to make a play."
IMPACT NEWCOMER: Tyrone Collins, soph., defensive back
Collins earned playing time late last season on special teams, and continued to improve heading into fall camp. That improvement has slotted him into a starting role for a defensive unit that was led by JoJo Louis' eight interceptions in 2014.
DEEP AT: LINEBACKER
The Pirates are stacked at linebacker, with senior Chase Balliette leading a veteran group.
THIN AT: THE LINES
No matter what classification it is, finding bodies for the line is always an issue and Braden River is no exception this season.
10-1, 4-0 7A-10
at North Fort Myers W, 35-32
PEMB. PINES SOMERSET W, 54-6
SOUTHEAST W, 27-0
at Lakewood Ranch W, 21-6
at Booker (Canceled)
at Sarasota W, 49-12
at Bayshore W, 24-0
at North Port W, 42-14
PALMETTO W, 38-14
ARCADIA DESOTO W, 37-0
LARGO PINELLAS PARK W, 44-28
TARPON SPRINGS EAST LAKE L, 37-21
4 at Southeast
11 at Cape Coral Ida Baker
18 LAKEWOOD RANCH*
2 at North Port*
30 at Sarasota*
6 ST. PETE GIBBS
Games start at 7:30 p.m., unless noted
HOME GAMES IN ALL CAPS
Expect a playoff berth
A year after shocking everyone with an unbeaten regular season, the Pirates aren't a surprise team anymore. They boast an experienced and talented group looking to build off last season's run to the regional semifinals. However, district foes got better and the addition of perennial power Venice makes 7A-11 a daunting league to go through.
BY THE NUMBERS
0 -- Amount of regular season losses, a first in program history.
3 -- Number of interceptions quarterback Jacob Huesman threw last season as a junior.
210 -- Rushing yards per game last season.
Curt Bradley, fourth year, 16-14.