Season-opening exhibition games are supposed to be a time for head coaches to evaluate players, assistant coaches and themselves. Braden River head coach Curt Bradley has a bevy of new players and was hoping to use the Kickoff Classic Friday night against host Lehigh to see how his players compete against another team. Practice can only tell you so much.
Which players, Pirate coaches wondered, would make a great first impression? Who would steal the show? Unfortunately for Braden River, the weather may be what is remembered most.
The scoreboard and social media may say that Camaron White rushed 14 times for 92 yards and scored one touchdown while Bryan Gagg threw two touchdown passes and the Pirates defeated Lehigh, 21-14, in a game of non-district teams at James A. Adams Memorial Stadium.
But what coaches, players and fans will remember is that a lightning alarm forced stoppage of play with 23 seconds remaining in the first half. A few minutes later, officials called the game off, due more in part to lightning than inclement weather.
It wasn’t raining. Call it “a nearby storm,” one Lehigh fan said. (Coincidentally Lehigh’s nickname is the Lightning.)
Early on it appeared Braden River was headed for the type of game that made Pirate fans so happy last year, when they went deep into the playoffs before falling to Venice 64-42 in a region seminal game.
Against Lehigh, the Pirates built a 14-0 lead with 5:18 left in the first quarter on slashing runs by White and touchdown passes of 20 and 33 yards by Gagg. The latter was caught by Knowledge Mcdaniel.
But Lehigh, which went 6-4 last year and is considered one of the best teams in Lee County, came back with a 3-yard scoring run by quarterback Delshawn Green that followed a long Lightning pass play. Braden River led 14-7 at the end of the first quarter.
The Pirates extended their lead to 21-7 on White’s 35-yard run around the left side with 8:15 remaining in the second quarter. It came on third-and-one.
Lehigh made it a seven-point margin again at 5:45 on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Green to Jeff Augustin. Then the lightning struck too close and play was suspended.
Braden River will play Chatfield High of Littleton, Colo., Friday, Aug. 24, at ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando.
“Things need to get cleaned up on both sides of the ball,” Bradley said while his players were making their way to safety after the game was canceled. “The kids went out there and executed. A lot of guys got a chance to get in the game. Unfortunately we were not able to finish.”
Bradley had hoped that all of his players would play.