The past few weeks have been a struggle for Bradenton Christian, which took a 2-6 mark into Friday's non-league matchup against Fort Myers Canterbury.
Things changed for the better against the visiting Cougars -- on both sides of the ball. Starting with a late first-quarter touchdown, the Panthers rolled to a 35-6 decision.
"I'm most proud of the effort of the kids, simply because we've had a tough three-week stretch," BCS coach Allan Gerber said. "We've played some good teams and dealt with some injuries, so for them to come together tonight and play the way they did in all three phases, I'm really proud of the effort."
Gerber didn't get any argument from Canterbury coach Stacy Sizemore.
"They're a good team," said Sizemore, whose Cougars now stand 5-4. "They beat us in every facet of the game, there's no way around it. I take my hat off to them. Nothing that happened tonight surprised me."
Bradenton Christian got what turned out to be the only points it would need on a 12-yard pass from Dominick Otteni to Burke Hill at 2:55 of the opening quarter. Zach Cooper added the two-point coversion for an 8-0 advantage
On a pleasant Senior Night atmosphere, lightning would strike for the Panthers in the second quarter.
First, after Kylan Kinler recovered a Canterbury fumble, Otteni found Kevin Etienne on a quick hitter for a 47-yard touchdown at the 10:49 mark. Otteni added a two-yard scoring run and found Etienne one more time, this coming on a 62-yard touchdown play, for a 28-0 lead at intermission.
"It just ended up being a numbers thing," Gerber said. "What we do is based on numbers and leverage. At the end of the day, we had a situation where we felt like we had a one-on-one without any help and took advantage of it."
The Panthers wasted little time in putting the game away in the second half. On the first play of the third quarter, Otteni and Etienne made it a hat trick with a 75-yard pass play. For the night, Otteni completed 8 of 14 passes for 232 yards, while Etienne's three reception totaled 185 yards.
On the other side, Canterbury missed on two opportunities to close the gap. The Cougars had a touchdown negated by off-setting penalties in the second quarter, then early in the fourth, lost a fumble on the BCS 5.
"That's part of the game," Sizemore said. "That's why it's an oblong ball. We turned the ball over and you can't do that against good football teams."
Canterbury would avoid a shutout when Jalen Ellis scored on a 13-yard run at 7:06 of the third quarter.
As might be expected by the final margin, Gerber thought both offense and defense stood outo.
"When you talk about a small-school program with so many kids going both ways, one phase feeds the other," he said. "The fact we played well on offense motivates the kids to play well on defense."
Bradenton Christian will finish its season next week at Admiral Farragut.