BRADENTON -- Teriq Houston wants to restore Southeast football to the elite status it once enjoyed.
The sophomore has a personal investment. His father, Terrence, played on the Seminoles' 1993 and '94 state championship teams as a defensive end and has been his mentor.
Teriq might be ahead of his dad right now. Working at defensive end and linebacker, he leads the Seminoles in tackles (32) and is second with seven tackles for loss and two sacks.
A form of redemption can come quickly Friday when Southeast plays host to DeSoto County in a Class 5A-District 11 contest. The Noles are 1-0 in district after starting the season with three straight non-district losses.
"I grew up watching Southeast football and always wanted to play for this program," Houston said. "This game means a lot. You walk around the county and all you hear about now is Manatee and Braden River, the big dogs. A win here can put us back on the map."
The 5-foot-10, 220-pounder has other reasons he wants to excel both in football and in the classroom. He sees it as chance to better his life.
"There is nothing here but trouble here and basically my parents are pushing me to try and get out of Bradenton and try to be something," Houston said. "It's easy to get in trouble. You see people doing drugs or robbing and I am just trying to stay away from that. My ticket out of here is football and academics."
When John Warren took over the Southeast program last year and first saw Houston, he felt almost immediately that he had a special player.
"We knew he would be a prime asset," Warren said. "A 5-11, 220-pound sophomore, those kids don't fall off a tree. He is only 15 years old, but way above his age physically and he works hard. For him, football is an everyday thing. He dominates his opponent, is weightroom strong, and nearly always more athletic than the person he goes against on the field."
Houston is also versatile. He has been used on offense as a fullback and his athleticism allows him
to be disruptive on the field either as a down lineman or linebacker.
"He is fast and quick and does a heck of a job down in the trenches," Warren said. "We try not to play him too much at fullback because he is a gigantic piece of our defense."
Houston is part of a core of younger players on defense that Warren hopes to use to turn the program around. Another key asset is junior Dequan Williams, who also plays defensive end and linebacker.
Williams leads Southeast with 7.5 tackles for loss and three sacks and also has 18 tackles and two passes defended. The 6-1, 190-pounder is coming off two straight seasons where he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
"We are trying to get him confident in that knee and he wears a brace, which helps," Warren said. "But he never wears out, never tires and is the first kid in the drills and in the weight room. He works hard and is the best athlete in our locker room pound-for-pound and tough as nails."
Williams also comes from a family tree of Southeast football players including his dad, Shawn Williams, and brother, Shawn Williams Jr.
"I listen to my coaches, try to be athletic as I can and outdo the guy in front of me in the weight room and on the field," Williams said. "I try to beat the quarterback every chance I get and be tough and reckless and have fun. The game Friday is important to us. Everyone has been in the weight room and been grinding."
Warren calls the DeSoto game vital and said he cannot overemphasize its importance. He feels good about his team because it has been taking better care of the ball and the defense has improved.
"We know the district championship starts through DeSoto and if we can get to 2-0 we can control our own destiny," Warren said. "Our defense has been playing lights out and we have been taking better care of the ball."