SARASOTA -- On the strength of a dominant first half, visiting Braden River extended its regular-season winning streak to 19 games on Friday night with a 27-17 victory over Sarasota in the Class 7A-District 11 finale for both teams at Cleland Stadium at Ihrig Field.
The Pirates' defense, which sacked Sarasota freshman signal-caller Bryan Gagg five times in the first half and limited the Sailors to six yards on 28 plays over the first 24 minutes, recovered a fumbled lateral on the game's first play from scrimmage. Sophomore DeShaun Fenwick ran 24 yards to the end zone to give Braden River (9-0, 5-0 in 7A-11) a lead it would never relinquish just 23 seconds into the contest.
Fenwick collected 75 yards on his first three carries, while his fourth carry was a 5-yard touchdown run that gave the Pirates a 14-0 lead with 9:04 left in the first quarter. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Fenwick and 5-7, 170-pound senior Roman Grissett had 92 yards and 64 yards, respectively, in place of leading rusher Raymond Thomas.
Thomas left last week's 35-0 win over Palmetto with an apparent knee injury, and Braden River head coach Curt Bradley confirmed Friday night Thomas would miss next week's regular-season finale against visiting St. Petersburg Gibbs and the 2015 playoffs.
"(Thomas) is one of our biggest playmakers," Bradley said. "He is obviously a big cog in the wheel that we have to replace moving forward."
Braden River would use the arm of Florida International University-bound quarterback Jacob Huesman to tack on 13 more points in the second quarter. Huesman went into the locker room at halftime with 149 yards on 10-of-12 passing, including a 19-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Neuzil on the first play of the second quarter and a 41-yard scoring strike to Jaylin Austin.
Huesman would engineer a seven-minute drive that resulted in a 42-yard field goal attempt that was partially blocked late in the third quarter, before giving way to junior Nate Strawderman. Just a few plays after a fumble recovery inside the Pirates' 5 appeared to have Braden River on its way to a fourth shutout this season, Strawderman took a sack in his own end zone with 7:30 left in the game.
Sarasota junior Xakari Hawkins relieved Gagg in the fourth quarter and threw a pair of touchdowns in a span of 45 seconds late in the fourth quarter. Isaac Edwards hauled in the first scoring pass from 26 yards out and Talik Keaton's 20-yard reception capped the scoring with 23.7 seconds remaining.
"It wasn't clean by any means, but we'll take it and move on to next week," Bradley said.
If it defeats Gibbs next week on Senior Night and Homecoming, Braden River will cap its first 10-0 regular season. The Pirates were 9-0 last season as a scheduled regular season game against Booker was canceled.
"It will be a lot of festivities and a lot of distractions, but you start throwing streaks out there and that kind of perks kids' attention up," Bradley said. "We'll be ready to go because we have a good Gibbs team coming to our place."