Allan Gerber’s weekend of playoff preparation was already unfamiliar — Bradenton Christian had never qualified for the postseason before this year — before he had to worry about another wrinkle.
Sometime between his Saturday film study, a Sunday statistical breakdown and early-week practices at Dan van der Kooy Field, the Panthers head coach has to start making phone calls.
Bradenton Christian faces a trip to Jacksonville for the first round of the Sunshine State Athletic Conference tournament, and part of the plan Gerber has laid out involves a pit stop somewhere between Bradenton and Jacksonville.
“We’ll make some phone calls this week to see if there are any friends of ours who we can stop and see,” Gerber said, “and get some time on the grass.”
The SSAC’s regular season concluded Friday and both Manatee County teams that play in the league advanced to the postseason. Saint Stephen’s, which won the Coral Bay division, claimed the top seed and will play host to Spring Hill Bishop McLaughlin Catholic on Friday at Moore Athletic Conference at Turner Fields.
Bradenton Christian, which finished as the runner-up to the Falcons, will join Saint Stephen’s in the playoffs. On Friday in Jacksonville, the Panthers will face Christ’s Church Academy. BCS is planning to leave after school Thursday, stopp for practice somewhere along the way and have a full day of rest and preparation before a 7 p.m. start Friday.
Bradenton Christian and Out-of-Door Academy both joined the SSAC in December, searching for a more competitive environment after a handful of tough seasons in Class 2A-District 5. Out-of-Door’s disappointing regular season ended Friday with a 35-14 loss to Windermere Prep in Windermere, but the Panthers found the success they’d lacked as a team competing for playoff spots in the FHSAA.
An 0-4 start could have sunk Bradenton Christian once again before a defensive turnaround in October lifted Bradenton Christian to three straight wins — plus a one-quarter tiebreaker victory against St. Petersburg Shorecrest Prep, which made for more than two games since Oct. 14 — and a spot in the playoffs.
“I’m proud of the kids for a couple of reasons,” Gerber said. “They’ve had the resiliency to get ready for three games in (eight) days.”
The Falcons will also make history when they welcome Bishop McLaughlin Catholic to Bradenton on Friday.
Less than a week after clinching a division or district for the first time in school history, Saint Stephen’s returned to the field for a 42-33 win against Seffner Christian on Thursday. As the Falcons left the field and a postgame huddle with Tod Creneti, the head coach left them with a message.
“Remember,” he told them, “next week we’re hosting a playoff game.”
“Those,” Creneti said Saturday, “are words that never have been said around here.”
Week 10 schedule
Bishop McLaughlin at Saint Stephen’s, 7 p.m.
Bradenton Christian at Jacksonville Christ’s Church Academy, 7 p.m.
Clearwater Central Catholic at Cardinal Mooney, 7 p.m.
Manatee at Lithia Newsome, 7:30 p.m.
Sarasota at Braden River, 7:30 p.m.
Venice at Palmetto, 7:30 p.m.
North Port at Lakewood Ranch, 7:30 p.m.
Sarasota Booker at Southeast, 7:30 p.m.
Lemon Bay at Bayshore, 7:30 p.m.
IMG Academy at Long Beach Poly, 10:30 p.m.