BRADENTON -- It's a spot the Southeast football team had envisioned itself occupying.
The Seminoles intercepted five passes and got another workman-like performance from senior running back Kevin Johnson as they improved to 2-0 in Class 5A-District 11 play with Friday night's 28-3 victory over visiting DeSoto County. The win, which was Southeast's second straight after a 0-3 start to the 2015 campaign, keeps the Seminoles in a first-place tie with Wauchula Hardee atop the district standings.
"I think the last time that we went 2-0 in the district was 2012," said Johnson, who finished with 195 yards and two touchdowns on 35 carries. "We worked hard for this and we got it. Now, we have to keep it up."
It was a case of missed opportunities early on for Southeast as it failed to score points on its first three possessions, all of which saw the Seminoles move into DeSoto County territory. A holding penalty at the Bulldogs' 35 stifled Southeast's first drive, the second drive ended with a missed 40-yard field goal by Ricardo Rodriguez, and Johnson lost a fumble inside the DeSoto County 5 to end the third drive.
The Southeast offense would find that little extra spark about three minutes into the second quarter as senior quarterback Joey Giardina found Qion Burch for a 33-yard gain that would enable Johnson to score on a 4-yard run. The Seminoles would make it 14-0 with 4:29 left before halftime as Giardina and senior wide receiver Quan Laguerre connected for a 16-yard touchdown.
Giardina had 54 yards on 4-of-6 passing in a first half, which saw Johnson run for 114 yards on 18 carries and Southeast hold DeSoto County (0-5, 0-2 in Class 5A-District 11) to 22 yards of total offense. Junior linebacker Jonathan Locke intercepted two Bulldog passes over the first 24 minutes.
DeSoto County took advantage of a roughing the kicker personal foul and scored its only points on a 36-yard field goal by Ceaser Barajas with 8:44 left in the third quarter. The next four DeSoto County possessions ended in a punt and interceptions by Derrick Bradley, Bradley Tresalus and Damon Poole.
"We knew that we had something special with our defense as we were installing our system in the spring," said second-year Southeast head coach John Warren, whose unit held the Bulldogs to 35 yards of total offense. "We're loaded with athletes on that side of the ball. We hired our new defensive coordinator, Cody Montgomery (in the offseason). He and I hit it off right way with our styles. He is a blitzing and attacking type of guy. We knew that was going to send us to the next level with our defense."
Southeast would score the final touchdowns within a span of 1:35 in the fourth quarter. Giardina threw a 24-yard scoring pass to Burch and Johnson scored from the 5 with 6:32 left in the game.