BRADENTON -- Before the season started, Courtney Allen let it be known he was willing to be a workhouse running back.
Southeast head football coach Paul Maechtle was reluctant to put the 5-foot-7, 185-pound junior in that role because he didn't want to wear him out.
After coming off a heartbreaking one-point loss, Maechtle had no choice if he wanted the Noles to win their home opener Friday night against Lakewood Ranch.
Allen was the only thing working on offense for Southeast (1-1), and he did just enough to carry the Noles to a 12-7 victory over the Mustangs (1-1).
Allen put the first points on the board when he scored on a 45-yard punt return. He finished the night with 28 carries for 197 yards.
"He had way too many carries, but he said he could handle it," Maechtle said. "We've been in two games now that could've gone either way. We've had so many injuries. We lost another three guys tonight, our center, linebacker and defensive end. We had five sophomores in there at the end on defense."
The most important thing is that the Noles didn't lose Allen, and their defense played well for most of the game. He ran for 93 yards on 14 carries in the first half and had 104 on 14 carries in the second half.
"It was hard out here, but as long as I keep working hard in practice it will pay off," Allen said. "The offensive line kept on pushing, and that's all I needed. On the punt return, I got a couple of nice blocks and I was able to take it to the house. It feels good to win but I know our team can play a lot better."
Southeast dominated the game, but kept shooting itself in the foot and couldn't pull away.
The Noles racked up 364 total yards from scrimmage with 22 first downs while holding Lakewood Ranch to 149 yards and eight first downs.
Lakewood Ranch scored midway through the first quarter when big tight end Wyatt McLeod took a snap from center and went 38 yards for a touchdown, barreling over defenders.
"I was worried they would try more of that, but we managed to stop it a few times and they didn't try it anymore," Maechtle said.
The extra point gave Lakewood Ranch a 7-6 lead midway through the first quarter. It was the Mustangs' only bright spot in the first half. They finished the first half with 71 total yards and only two first downs.
Southeast had several chances to go ahead in the first half, but couldn't finish. The Noles finally went ahead with 11 seconds remaining before intermission on an 11-yard pass from Myles Braxton-Johnson to Wilson Lee. It capped a nine play, 80-yard drive that was sparked by a 31-yard pass from Braxton-Johnson to Jacob Sannon.
"Our team was looking for that first victory, and now we've got it and can build on it," Allen said. "If coach tells me I got to get it (a lot of carries) I got to get it. I told my offense line just get me a little hole or crease and I will get you five or 10 yards. They stepped up to the plate."
Ranch had a chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter when it drove to the Southeast 14, but the Noles stopped the drive on a fourth and one. Then they went to the Mustangs' 6 until they were stopped.
Allen carried the load in that drive rushing eight times for 47 yards.
Chris Pearcey led Lakewood Ranch with 80 yards on 13 carries. He had the longest run for the Mustangs when he broke free for 51 yards in the fourth quarter to the Southeast 35 on the drive that eventually stalled.