High School Football

Braden River High football team is loaded with stars. Be sure not to overlook this one

Prep football in Manatee County heads into the season’s final weeks

A collection of photos from games involving Manatee County teams this season.
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A collection of photos from games involving Manatee County teams this season.

Braden River High’s offense is every quarterback’s dream.

Pirates junior Brian Battie might be the best running back in Manatee County, his agility and speed helping him rush for 13 touchdowns heading into Friday night’s game against Lakewood Ranch.

And the Pirates’ receivers group includes three-star recruit Knowledge McDaniel, senior Clyde Townsend and junior Travis Tobey, a trio that entered Friday with 14 receiving touchdowns.

The offensive line also has four seniors who have been at Braden River for their entire careers.

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Braden River High quarterback Bryan Gagg, who plans to graduate in December and enroll at East Carolina University early, has helped the Pirates to a 6-2 record this season. Bradenton Herald file photo

Yes, Pirates quarterback Bryan Gagg loves leading this offense.

“You couldn’t really ask for more weapons as an offense,” he said this week.

Gagg and the Pirates’ offense led the way to another big win on Friday night, this one a 56-0 road victory against the rival Mustangs.

The Pirates (6-2, 3-1 Class 7A-District 11) have averaged more than 30 points per game this season, helping them enter the week as the No. 2 team in the FHSAA’s 7A-Region 3 power rankings.

“He’s an extremely talented quarterback. He’s got a great combination of arm strength and accuracy, and he’s a very good athlete, too,” Pirates coach Curt Bradley said. “I think his athleticism gets overlooked sometimes. He moves very well both in the pocket and outside, scrambling, making plays. He can do a lot of different things at quarterback.”

Gagg entered Friday having completed 60.5 percent of his passes for 1,323 yards and 13 touchdowns against just four interceptions. He credits his success to having a better understanding of defenses, his increased speed and his adding 25 pounds in the offseason.

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Braden River three-star wide receiver recruit Knowledge McDaniel gives the Pirates a playmaker on the outside. Bradenton Herald file photo

Bradley has seen Gagg’s development, pointing to the senior’s performance in Week 4 against Palmetto. Gagg threw what proved to be the game-deciding touchdown, a 71-yarder to Townsend, with 2:04 left.

The score came after Gagg injured a knee and threw an interception, but he bounced back from the tough stretch to win an important game.

“It’s extremely important to make sure the person running the offense knows what the expectations are and knows where to go with the football,” Bradley said. “It’s something that every program wants, a veteran quarterback, because they’re touching the football on every snap, and it’s a security blanket knowing you have a veteran behind center.”

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Braden River running back Brian Battie had 13 touchdowns this season heading into Friday night’s game. Bradenton Herald file photo

Friday’s win leaves the Pirates with two regular-season games left and up to five postseason games.

Their offense, led by Gagg, could help them keep their season going a long time.

“Obviously, our ultimate goal is to go to states,” said Gagg, who plans to graduate this semester to begin his playing career at East Carolina early. “You want to leave high school saying you won a state championship. That’s definitely our goal this year.”

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