LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Last year, Courtney Allen and Chad Rex played opposite roles when Southeast and Lakewood Ranch met on the football field.
This year, expectations are high for both.
Allen ran for 177 yards to lead Southeast to a 12-7 victory in last year's game. Rex was a sophomore quarterback making his first varsity start for Lakewood Ranch, and he was more a caretaker dealing with his own nervousness.
With leading rusher Chris Pearcey out for the 2013 season with a knee injury, more responsibility has fallen on Rex's shoulders. Fortunately for him, he can deal with it better with a year of experience under his belt.
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If Lakewood Ranch is going to end its three-game losing streak against Southeast, it can't let Allen run wild again. Southeast with only two starters returning on defense has to contain Rex, and that has Noles head coach Paul Maechtle concerned.
The game at Lakewood Ranch will be televised by Bright House Sports Network, and kickoff is 7:30 p.m. The game can also been seen online on highschoolcube.com.
In their preseason warmup games last week, Southeast was drubbed 42-7 by Venice, and Lakewood Ranch lost 23-21 when Brandon scored against their reserves in the last minute.
"Their quarterback (Rex) looked very elusive against Brandon in the game film I saw, which is not want I wanted to see," Maechtle said. "They've been doing an excellent job of coaching their kids. They run to the football. They know the formula that it takes to win. But I am still concerned about us. We have to do more than one touchdown."
Lakewood Ranch head coach Shawn Trent knows running backs such as Allen usually don't get stopped. The idea is to slow him down and make him work for everything.
"Our big concern is stopping big plays and giving yourself a chance to win at the end," Trent said. "Allen is a great back. You just try to do what you can do. We still have a long way to go. We are young, and it's going to take a couple of games to get things underneath their belts."
Allen is on the cusp of making some history. He needs 316 yards to break Dyral McMillan's school rushing record (2,863) and 1,162 yards to past Bayshore's John Garvin (3,709), who is No. 2 on the Manatee County career rushing list.
"I don't think about what happened last year. I don't look at the past. I just look forward," Allen said. "I am just coming out here every day and trying to work hard and prepare for the next game. Those guys are very disciplined. When one guy pops to the ball, the rest of the team pops to the ball. It's a nice rivalry."
Southeast has won four of the past six games in the series, losing 20-16 in 2009 and 18-9 in '07. Winning two out of three during that stretch gave Lakewood Ranch quite a bit of credibility and woke up Southeast, which seemed to be taking these games lightly.
For Rex, this game is important. It gives him a chance to show what he can do against what is expected to be one of the area's better defenses.
"I feel a lot more comfortable, and the offensive line is starting to put the pieces together," Rex said. "Last year against them, I was very nervous. It was my first varsity game. I like our offense. We lost our running back and a couple of offensive linemen, but we have a lot of skill players and good receivers."
Southeast is breaking in a new quarterback in junior Jack Shinn. He struggled last week against Venice, but it was the Noles' defense that really took a beating, especially the front four.
"We didn't fit right at the line of scrimmage a couple of times, and I will blame us a little for moving people around in practice looking for the best fit." Maechtle said. "Because of all the rain last week, we were in the gym at every practice. All of a sudden a runner would break loose in the smaller confines of the gym and we had a kid there. But in the bigger, wider football field, we weren't quite there."