Among Rashad West’s goals when he returned to Bradenton to take over as Southeast’s head coach in February was reestablishing the Seminoles’ connection to their storied history. He had reputation himself as a Noles legend, winning a state championship in 1994 and then earning Herald All-Area honors the next two seasons.
The first three weeks back home didn’t go exactly according to plan, though. Two losses and a rainout left Southeast winless entering Friday’s Class 5A-District 11 opener against Bayshore at Paul Maechtle Field at John Kiker Memorial Stadium. The offense he helms had mostly underachieved.
On Friday, it finally turned. The Seminoles jumped out to a 35-point halftime lead on their district rival and cruised to a 42-0 win against the Bruins. West finally had his first win at his alma mater.
“I’ve won games before,” West said. “I’m glad for these kids, man. I’m happy these kids got a win, so they can see the stuff we talk to them about is true and it does work. Just believe in the process and keep working. It’s great to get a win, but it’s really about these kids getting a win. They’ve endured a tough three weeks. We know we’re better than the product we put on the field.”
The Noles’ (1-2, 1-0) offense clicked immediately against Bayshore (0-2, 0-1) and triggered a blowout before the end of the second quarter. First-year quarterback Alex Taylor threw for a career-high 315 yards and three touchdowns to three different receivers while completing 13 of 18 pass attempts. Wide receiver Terrance Pryor Jr. hauled in four catches for 150 yards and a touchdown.
Southeast’s defense once against dominated, wreaking havoc on Bruins quarterback Ryan O’Neill with six sacks, but Friday was a win for West and his maligned offense.
“Our defense has been great. They’ve been great all season,” West said. “We hadn’t done our part on offense. I knew they’d stand up.”
They’ve got guy that fly to the football. It was like playing college, they’re that well coached. They’ve got monsters on defense.
John Biezuns, Bayshore head coach
Taylor is the key to the Seminoles’ offensive potential, and has served as a protege to West during his junior year. He came to Noles’ football program in the spring after West’s return, taking the field for the first time since he was an eighth-grader playing in the Police Athletic League.
The 6-foot-6 basketball player was understandably raw, even as he sat in the pocket as a pass-first quarterback. He had the frame and the arm strength, but lacked accuracy and experience.
“It was just a little shaky because I just wasn’t mentally ready for it,” Taylor said. “But I have a great coach. Coach West—he’s really taught me a lot, and he’s put a lot into me mentally and physically.”
His strength, though, is still his deep ball and his downfield connection with Pryor powered the Noles’ offense. On Southeast’s third offensive play, Taylor launched pass 46 yards down the field to Pryor to convert a third-and-long and set up an 8-yard touchdown run for Qion Burch. Two plays into the Seminoles’ next offensive drive, he found Pryor for a 50-yard gain to set up an eight-yard, screen-pass touchdown to slotback Tyler Stevenson.
Three of Pryor’s four catches went for more than 45 yards. Six of Taylor’s 13 completions went for at least 20. After completing fewer than half of his passes during the first two weeks and totaling 276 yards through the air, Taylor broke out in his third game with West on the sideline.
“This is the best I’ve felt. I felt comfortable, actually,” Taylor said. “It just felt natural to me. I finally got back in rhythm and it felt good to me.”
Southeast 42, Bayshore 0
SE— Qion Burch 8 run (Julio Martinez kick), 6:10
SE— Jordan Sims 26 kick block return (Martinez kick), 4:07
SE— Tyler Stevenson 8 pass from Alex Taylor (Martinez kick), 11:12
SE— Jattorious Galloway 25 pass from Taylor (Dequan Williams pass from Tristin Hernandez), 3:36
SE— Terrance Pryor Jr. 47 pass from Taylor (kick blocked), 0:59
SE— Burch 2 run (Martinez kick), 1:10
Rushing: Bayshore: Ryan O'Neill 9-(-36), Michael Alexander 4-9, Corey VonBorstel 5-0, Miguel Rodriguez 2-(-12), Rory Houston 1-1, Totals: 21-(-38). Southeast: Pryor 1-1, Taylor 3-(-28), Latrell Peavy 8-55, Burch 5-13, Johnnie Schoolfield 4-8, Tristin Hernandez 1-50, Totals: 22-99.
Passing: Bayshore: O'Neill 13-19-1-123, Totals: 13-19-1-123. Southeast: Taylor 13-18-0-315, Hernandez 0-1-0-0, Totals: 13-19-0-315.
Receiving: Bayshore: Mikel Green 1-50, Jerry Robinson 1-0, VonBorstel 5-21, Deny Dessin 2-20, Rodriguez 4-32, Totals13-123. Southeast: Pryor 4-150, Burch 1-13, Stevenson 4-40, Bradley Tresalus 2-74, Galloway 2-38, Totals: 13-315.