Sebastian Meija placed his hands on each side of his helmet. The ball he just threw was too far in front of his intended target.
With the overthrow, Lakewood Ranch’s hopes of completing its comeback — in which Meija was instrumental — were dashed in the fourth quarter Friday at Braden River.
The Pirates forced a pivotal turnover on downs and scored on the subsequent possession to ice the game, a 41-23 victory over the Mustangs.
“Any chance you’re in a two-possession game and get a stop, and then get a score, push it to three possessions, obviously that’s humongous,” Braden River head coach Curt Bradley said. “We just felt we got a chance early in the game to kind of put it out of reach and we turn the ball over and give up all kinds of yards on kickoff. We’ve got to do a better job and that starts with me making sure our guys are focused ready to play. We lost focus too often (Friday) and that led to some errors.”
Prior to the fourth quarter defensive stand, Friday’s East Manatee County rivalry game started with Braden River jumping out to a 20-6 lead with 11 minutes, 6 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
That’s when things got a little odd. The teams combined for one fumble and three interceptions during a turnover barrage.
The Pirates (2-0), though, capitalized with Zion Newell’s 22-yard pick-six to take a commanding 27-6 lead midway through the second quarter.
But the Mustangs (0-3) fought back. Meija connected with receivers on three consecutive passes for 62 yards, the final completion covering 23 yards to Cooper Orzel for a touchdown late in the first half.
They added a field goal to end the first half to pull within 11 points.
Lakewood Ranch trimmed the lead down to 11 again after Braden River’s Yahshua Edwards scored his fourth touchdown, an 8-yard run with 7 minutes, 28 seconds left in the third quarter.
The fourth-quarter defensive stand, though, triggered the final blow to the Mustangs’ comeback attempt.
“I just keep talking about our guys, they have a will to compete,” Lakewood Ranch head coach Scott Paravicini said. “And that’s something that I can be super proud of. They don’t hang their hat, they don’t get down on themselves when stuff’s not going our way. And let’s be real, stuff didn’t go our way early in the game. So for them to show poise and battle back, I keep telling them we’re a puzzle and we’re just trying to put those pieces together. I think we put a couple more pieces in the puzzle (Friday), but we just got a long way to go.”
Braden River kept its winning streak over the Mustangs. The Pirates have not lost to Lakewood Ranch since 2013.
Marcus Galloway finished with 130 rushing yards and a touchdown, while Edwards added 55 rushing yards and 104 receiving yards to go with his four touchdowns to pace the Pirates.
Braden River quarterback Lucas Despot completed 9-of-16 passes for 234 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
For the Mustangs, Simon Freed led the rushing game with 93 yards. Jayden Munoz (79 receiving yards) and Orzel (80 receiving yards) were the top targets for Meija, who completed 19-of-34 passes for 186 yards. He had one touchdown pass and three interceptions.
The two teams weren’t alone under the Friday night lights in the area.
Here’s a look at the rest of the Week 3 games with scores below:
Manatee 46, Punta Gorda Charlotte 7
Sarasota Riverview 52, Palmetto 42
Parrish Community 63, Bayshore 22
IMG Academy White 49, Southeast 13
Fort Lauderdale Westminster Christian 34, Bradenton Christian 10
Saint Stephen’s 21, Out-of-Door Academy 7
IMG Academy National 34, Indianapolis Ben Davis 14
North Port 38, IMG Academy Blue 20 (Thursday)
Swipe below for scores involving Bradenton-area programs: