Braden River kept their district championship hopes alive, escaping from Palmetto with a 31-24 win at Harllee Stadium.
For the second straight year, the Pirates were in a near must-win situation, one week after a district loss to Venice. The combination of power running from senior RB Deshaun Fenwick and the big-play capability of junior RB/WR Knowledge McDaniel propelled Braden River to their 12th straight win over Manatee County opponents.
McDaniel opened the scoring with a 2-yard TD run out of the Wildcat formation. Palmetto's Johnny Jones answered with a 1-yard TD run to even the score. The two teams exchanged field goals, Brett Thoma from Braden River and Alfredo Manriquez from Palmetto, and the game was tied at 10 at the half.
Braden River's passing game stole the spotlight in the second half. Junior Jake Hepler, starting in place of an injured Bryan Gagg, threw for three TDs and 160 of his 246 yards after halftime. McDaniel scored on 53 and 24-yard TD receptions, while Hepler and Craivon Koonce connected on a beautiful 28-yard TD pass. Fenwick, a South Carolina commit, finished the night with 199 yards on 25 carries.
Eddravian Butler had a highlight-reel play in the fourth quarter, breaking a 55-yard run, where he barely kept his knee off the ground before exploding through the secondary. His big play set up a 3-yard TD run from Elijah Davis. Anthony Marino (14-22, 115 yds) scored on a 1-yard QB sneak to pull the Tigers within seven late in the fourth quarter, but Braden River recovered the ensuing onside kick.
Braden River (2-1, 1-1 in 7A-11) continues district play next week when they host Sarasota. Palmetto (3-2, 1-1 in 7A-11) hosts undefeated Lakewood Ranch in a key district game next week. All district teams look to be chasing state power Venice, who advanced to the 7A State Semifinals last season.
Click on the video link for highlights and analysis.