EAST MANATEE — Brian Poole is known for his coverage skills, lethal hitting and elusiveness as a running back.
The Southeast standout unveiled another weapon Friday night against Braden River when he launched an 80-yard halfback pass on a reverse on the first play of the game that went for a touchdown to Boe Brand.
It provided a much-needed spark for the Seminoles, who were playing without Dyron Speight, their starting quarterback the past three years, who sat out because of disciplinary reasons. He is expected back for the next game.
Poole finished the night completing both of his passes, scored two touchdowns and ran for 73 yards in the Noles’ 31-0 Class 3A-District 10 victory over the host Pirates.
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“It was the first pass I ever threw in high school. We were watching them on film all week, and the coaches said we were going to go for it,” Poole said.
“We knew Speight was not going to play, and everybody felt they had to turn their game up, and I did my part. Our defense played awesome, everyone was flying to the ball.”
Southeast added a 43-yard field goal by Dustin Clark to take a 10-0 lead after the first quarter. The Noles stretched the lead to 24-0 at halftime on a 31-yard pass from Myles Braxton-Johnson to Calvin Williams and a 1-yard run by Poole that was set up by an interception from Eric Thompson.
Southeast (3-2, 1-0) also got a standout effort from its defense, led by Desmond Blue, who blocked a punt, recorded two sacks and was all over the field making tackles.
The Noles held Braden River to only 64 yards of offense in the first half and 124 yards for the game. They harassed Pirates quarterback Ryan Fischer, who completed just one of six passes, was picked off once and had a net 1 yard rushing on 15 carries.
“I knew I was going to get the blocked punt. I could’ve scored, but the ref blew the whistle (it was later ruled an inadvertent whistle),” Blue said. “We had a young quarterback going for us, and we felt we had to help him out. We had no real strategy on defense. We just went after them because we felt that was the best way to get at them.”
Southeast added its final points in the third quarter when Poole scored on another 1-yard run, which capped a 66-yard, eight-play drive where he carried five times for 33 yards and Braxton-Johnson connected on a 22-yard pass to Adrian Richard.
A sophomore transfer from Venice, Braxton-Johnson completed 6 of 10 passes for 124 yards. Poole was 2 for 2 for 88 yards.
“I felt great out there. I found out during the week that I was going to start,” Braxton-Johnson said. “I felt like there was some pressure, but as the game went on, I felt more comfortable. This team has great receivers. They can catch anything.”
For the second straight game, Brand led the Noles in receiving this time, catching four passes for 146 yards, including the TD.
“We’ve had that play (Poole TD pass) in for a long time, and we felt this would be a good week to use it,” Southeast head coach Paul Maechtle said. “I thought Braxton-Johnson did a nice job for stepping up and having to play quarterback for the first time. He did the things he could do and managed the game right, and our offensive line gave him a good amount of time.”
Braden River (2-3, 1-1) didn’t have much to show for its offensive efforts. Javar Baity led the Pirates with 73 yards on six carries and was virtually their entire offense.
“I think it took something out of us when they hit that touchdown on the first play of the game,” Braden River head coach Don Purvis said. “I don’t think it was really that one play, but it certainly stung us. We put a lot of emphasis on controlling the line of scrimmage and putting a good pass rush on, and unfortunately we were not able to do that. Their speed and how physical they played up front on both sides of the ball was the big thing that we couldn’t overcome.”