With 5:05 left in the third quarter, Countryside had to feel confident victory was at hand in its season opener at Boca Ciega.
The Cougars, who took a 20-6 lead into halftime, stopped the Pirates on four straight plays from inside their 9 after Jocquel Skinner's 89-yard kickoff return.
Then Countryside ran the ball 11 straight times, relying on the legs of Alton Taylor (29 carries, 212 yards) and its massive offensive line to march 96 yards, including Taylor's 4-yard score.
But the Pirates refused to be counted out and nearly pulled off a stunning comeback only to fall 34-26.
"We did some fundamental things wrong that we've got to correct. But (Boca Ciega) didn't quit, and we didn't quit," Countryside coach John Davis said. "Bottom line is we got what we wanted out of the whole thing. We're 1-0. It could have ended up a whole lot worse."
Boca Ciega cut it to 27-12 with 10:48 left on Shaquille Bradford's 25-yard pass to Jovontae Johnson. But again, the Cougars appeared to put the game away, marching 80 yards in seven plays (six runs, one pass) capped by Taylor's 36-yard rumble that made it 34-12 with 6:46 left.
Bradford (18-for-36 for 229 yards and 72 yards on 12 carries), though, refused to fold. He escaped the grasp of Countryside tacklers time after time to find receivers downfield. With 3:45 left, he hooked up with Johnson again, this time for a 20-yardtouchdown that pulled the Pirates to within 16.
After a failed two-point conversion, a mishandled squib kick gave the ball back to Boca Ciega. And the Pirates took advantage as Bradford found Michael Boykins from 25 yards two plays later. Bradford then completed the two-point conversion pass to Johnson.
Trailing 34-26, Boca Ciega had a chance to tie the score in the closing seconds. Taking the ball at its 34 with just more than a minute left, the Pirates advanced to the Countryside 38 before Bradford was intercepted by Alex Dixon on the game's final play.
Taylor scored on runs of 32 and 5 yards in the first half for Countryside, and William Griswold made field goals of 45 and 23 yards.
Bradford hit Tyree Green for a 7-yard score just before the half to make it 20-6.
The game was delayed 31 minutes midway through the second quarter because of lightning.