The mood on the Braden River High School campus was different this week than it had been any other time during the Pirates’ past two-and-a-half football seasons.
Braden River had lost a football game during the regular season. There was still a game to play Friday in Palmetto, a chance to bounce back, but Curt Bradley couldn’t always tell from his interactions around school.
“You going to be OK this week,” he said people would ask him and his team.
“I think we’re going to be just fine,” he insisted.
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“We didn’t quite know what to expect — as far as there’s so much youth — coming off a loss,” the Pirates head coach said. “The world’s not falling. We lost a football game.”
It took less than five minutes at Harllee Stadium for Braden River to quell any concerns about playing after the week after a 25-game regular-season winning streak ended. In 12 plays, the Pirates marched 80 yards for a tone-setting touchdown. The Tigers never seriously threatened Braden River, which cruised to a 35-0, bounce-back victory at Palmetto High School.
The Pirates (6-1, 3-1 Class 7A-District 11) gashed the Tigers (6-2, 3-1) on the ground and shredded them through the air. Running backs Raymond Thomas and Deshaun Fenwick combined for 99 yards on 21 carries before Thomas triggered a running clock with his second touchdown less than four minutes into the third quarterback. Quarterback Louis Colosimo connected on 12 of 16 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns to Fenwick, Tyrone Collins and running back Knowledge McDaniel.
Braden River stated its case as the best offense in Manatee County when it put up 35 points and more than 450 passing yards during a loss in Venice on Oct. 14. Against Palmetto, which entered Friday with the top defense in the county, the Pirates solidified their claim.
“We’re going to get better every week of the season,” Bradley said. “Our passing game obviously got better last week, and we kind of put a complete game together for the first time, and it came at the right time.”
Braden River entered the fall with the sort of uncertainty that spilled into the past week. The Pirates lost four starting offensive lineman, star quarterback Jacob Huesman and a Division I tight end in Ryan Neuzil, who is being converted to center at Appalachian State.
The defense had the returning pieces to ensure Braden River would remain competitive. The offense was going to be a work in progress.
The rebuild began when Colosimo transferred from IMG Academy. He built chemistry with the new-look offensive line as the linemen jelled themselves. For the first two months of the season, the Pirates leaned on their dynamic backfield duo of Thomas and Fenwick, alleviating pressure on the inexperience line until the passing offense was ready to erupt during the past two weeks.
“We’ve had that passing game in us, but we haven’t had to use it. A lot of credit to our offensive line, really coming along in the pass game,” Colosimo said. “It’s been great being able to throw the ball a little more.”
After a run-heavy opening drive, Colosimo settled in.
He found McDaniel on the seam during Braden River’s third drive for a 52-yard touchdown through the heart of the Tiger defense. Two Pirates offensive plays later, he heaved a pass down the left sideline where Collins, a star defensive back with an expanding role on offense, burned the Palmetto secondary for a 73-yard touchdown.
And with less than a minute left before halftime, Colosimo turned an already bloating lead into a rout. Braden River began with the ball at its 33-yard line and sent Travis Tobey down the seam. Colosimo found the tight end for a 36-yard pickup and two plays later connected for his third touchdown — and seventh in two games — with a 28-yard pass to Fenwick.
“It could have gotten real hairy here,” Bradley said. “If you don’t win that game you don’t get into the playoffs.
“We’ve got a chance to get ourselves back in.”
Braden River 35, Palmetto 0
BR— Raymond Thomas 1 run (Tyler McCauley kick), 7:42
BR— Knowledge McDaniel 52 pass from Louis Colosimo (McCauley kick), 1:05
BR— Tyrone Collins 73 pass from Colosimo (McCauley kick), 9:20
BR— Deshaun Fenwick 28 pass from Colosimo (McCauley kick), 0:23
BR— Thomas 8 run (McCauley kick), 8:43
Rushing: Braden River: Thomas 18-67, Fenwick 3-32, Cam White 5-1, Totals: 26-100. Palmetto: Johnny Jones 12-27, Corian Brown 2-9, Jason Spicer Jr. 7-17, Myles Myrick 2-9, Elijah Davis 1-0, Anthony Marino 1-15, Totals: 25-77.
Passing: Braden River: Colosimo 12-16-0-291, Jake Hepler 0-3-1-0, Totals: 12-19-1-291. Palmetto: Spicer 7-15-1-31, Totals: 7-15-1-31.
Receiving: Braden River: Collins 3-91, Fenwick 5-76, Travis Tobey 2-51, McDaniel 1-52, Niko Traylor 1-21, Totals: 12-291. Palmetto: Jones 1-5, Reggie White 2-4, Paco Garcia 2-13, Jacob Sullivan 1-5, Ademola Adedea IV 1-4, Totals: 7-31.