Before Tropical Storm Hermine was upgraded to a hurricane, Braden River High School’s football coaches and parents got creative to try keeping their football field dry ahead of this week’s scheduled home game against county foe Southeast.
The brainstorming session answer? Tarps. Lots of them.
Pirates head coach Curt Bradley and assistant coaches sent out a rally cry that team mom, Danielle McClellan, emailed to parents.
The result was a personal connection to local pest control service, Key 2 Pest Control, that had several tarps available for use. Braden River center Brendan Bengtsson’s father drove a dump truck full of tarps into the stadium, and the field was covered by noon Wednesday prior to the start of heavy rains that caused flooding around Manatee County.
Throughout the day Thursday, players, coaches, parents and fans waited for word on the fate of the six high school football games involving Manatee County teams scheduled for Friday. When the county school district announced shortly after 8 p.m. that schools would remain closed on Friday, it meant the three games involving public schools would not be played. The games involving Saint Stephen’s and Bradenton Christian were also postponed.
Late Thursday, Saint Stephen’s announced its game against Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic was rescheduled for 10:30 a.m. Saturday, and Lakewood Ranch announced an 11 a.m. Saturday start time for its game against Bayshore. Dates and times for the other games remained pending into Friday.
The school closing meant a third day of inactivity for area teams heading into a holiday weekend. Extracurricular activities were canceled Wednesday, while schools were closed Thursday.
“You only get four days to prepare the way it is and Thursday’s a walkthrough, it’s strictly a mental day,” Bradley said. “So it really affects it as far as we’re a team that really spends a lot of time game-planning. We make adjustments week-to-week, and we need reps to make that happen, so the kids feel comfortable and we’re very comfortable in what we want to do from a coaching standpoint.”
The tarp game plan didn’t survive, either. Bradley said county officials told them to remove the tarps for fear it would kill the grass.
“The tarp was actually working,” Bradley said. “We avoided a couple inches of rain right there. ... We went right after school and peeled all the tarps back and then we got hit with that huge squall of rain, whatever time that was — 3, 4 o’clock.”
There are three games featuring intra-county public schools matchups. In addition to Southeast at Braden River, the game of the week is the Green Bridge War rivalry between Manatee and Palmetto.
The Hurricanes, who have won seven consecutive meetings in the series, are slated to host the Tigers, at Hawkins Stadium.
The schools explored possible site options earlier this week, including using IMG Academy, which is in California for a game against national power Corona Centennial this weekend, as a host site due to its artificial turf field and strong drainage. Manatee head coach John Booth said Thursday that site is no longer an option, but there are alternatives if the field is unplayable.
“If the field isn’t playable on Friday, I don’t see how it would be on Saturday,” Booth said. “We may look to push it back to Monday, but that is not ideal for both teams.”
Palmetto head coach Dave Marino agreed about Monday not being a great option for the game earlier this week.
“We’re not crazy about that,” Marino said. “Especially, because we’ve got two tough teams again. He’s got Venice and then we have Southeast. That factors into it as well. ... Those are two pretty big games, physical games and very emotional games.”