EAST MANATEE -- They're maroon with a white Pirate logo and they're slapped across the Braden River football team's helmets.
They're just stickers, but they also mean a lot more this season.
Head coach Curt Bradley installed them, for the first time since taking over the program four years ago, as an incentive for his players excelling on the field.
"Kids like them," Bradley said. "It's something fun to kind of incentivize them too."
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While the stickers were designed to entice a positive view of special teams, both the offense and defensive units are included.
It's the defense that has produced some scintillating football -- and boatloads of stickers -- this season.
The Pirates, the No. 4-ranked team in the latest Associated Press Class 7A poll, haven't allowed a 100-yard rushing game nor has the defense allowed a touchdown. In fact, Braden River has allowed the least amount of total yards among Manatee County public schools en route to a 4-0 start.
And when the defense allows 15 points or less, pitches a shutout, tallies three or more turnovers or gets a win, it means each player on the unit gets a sticker. Individual stickers are awarded for interceptions, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries and sacks. Tackles for a loss equal half a sticker, while touchdowns on defense are multiple stickers.
"I sat out the first game due to my Achilles, so I couldn't get (any) stickers," junior safety/corner back Demetrius Lawson said. "So once I came back, that just enticed me to get more stickers. So I wanted to catch up with them."
Utilizing a front three on the defensive line of Dylan Tyson, Chase Knopf and Michael Walker, the Pirates boast a menacing group that constantly limits opposing running backs and pressures opposing quarterbacks into bad decisions.
The group has just one of the team's three sacks through four games, but the pressure has led to 10 interceptions this season.
"Statistically speaking, they're never going to lead the team in tackles or lead the team in those things, but they do occupy linemen and let our linebackers run," said Bradley, whose defense is averaging 55.25 passing yards allowed per game. "And that's the one thing we do have is a lot of speed on defense."
Lawson has a team-high 3 interceptions to pair with the 20 stickers dotting his maroon-colored helmet -- the stickers are white with a maroon Pirate logo for the team's white helmets.
"It just makes our helmet look good," Lawson said. "But it's some kind of competition with one person who has the most picks. It hypes you to get that extra pick."
Linebacker and team co-captain Chase Balliette snatched his second interception in last week's emotionally charged 41-0 whitewash of archrival Lakewood Ranch in the annual East County Bowl that doubled as a district game.
"Personally, you want to make a play, get a reward and make your helmet look a little better," Balliette said.
Currently, running back Raymond Thomas, who leads area players with nine touchdowns, possesses the most stickers for any Braden River player with 34.
On defense, Matthew Haftke leads the group with more than 20 stickers due, in part, to his role on special teams. Haftke is one of six players with at least 15 total tackles.
Balliette and linebacker Ronnie McClellan share the lead with 24 tackles, while Balliette has 10 1/2 for a loss.
Stickers, though, aren't just for the defense. And they are rated differently per position. For example, offensive lineman get a half sticker for every touchdown, while a 100-yard rusher nets the O-Line a sticker apiece. Offensive touchdowns are two stickers per player involved. So quarterback Jacob Huesman, a Florida International commit, gets two when he throws a touchdown pass and the receiver gets two for scoring, too.
The Pirates look to continue adding stickers in bunches Friday against Leesburg.