MANATEE -- They're teams heading in opposite directions.
One is riding high after a homecoming victory over a bigger county school.
The other is wounded, off to an 0-3 start unbecoming its rich history.
But this week's showdown between Bayshore (1-2) and Southeast (0-3) affords both clubs a fresh start.
Because the Bruins and Seminoles open up Class 5A-District 13 play against each other Friday at Balvanz Stadium, meaning the winner gains an upper hand in pursuit of one of two available district playoff berths, while the loser is left fighting from an early hole to get back into the postseason mix.
"Southeast High School is not that Southeast High School that put all those numbers on the board," Southeast
head coach Paul Maecthle said, referring to the scoreboard at John Kiker Memorial Stadium. "The coaches are here, and yeah, we've got a couple good players, but we don't have nearly the depth that we've had. Because the school being a little smaller, you don't have the continuation of things going like we did when we had bigger teams. ... At times, we'll have four or five people in the game that were never in the football program last year. That's why we're talking about a new year. It's a new season now."
The Bruins haven't made the postseason since 2005, and Bayshore has lost to Southeast in the previous eight meetings by an average margin of 19.63 points a game.
But this year is already different. Bayshore downed Lakewood Ranch last week 35-13.
The Bruins, who have been mired in mediocrity for some time, are no longer whipping boys. Using a savvy game plan with power running and timely passing, Bayshore ran roughshod over the Mustangs, a club that racked up 55 points against Southeast in a season-opening victory.
Head coach Elijah Freeman is careful to point out that the outcome rests with the matchups.
"I will never sell a Coach Maechtle team short," said Freeman, an assistant with Palmetto last season when Southeast won the district and the Tigers were runners-up. "So I can't say this is that time to beat them. But obviously, they have some kinks to work out still with their team. ... It might be the best time, because they're still a little unsure. But as long as Coach Maechtle is over there and they are still Southeast High School, I'm still worried. I'm still concerned."
Meanwhile, Southeast enters without a win. The Noles have shot themselves in the foot with too many turnovers. Most recently, Southeast turned the ball over six times in losing to Braden River for the first time in history.
"We've got to protect the ball, and we've got to look to take it away from them," Maechtle said.
The slow start has been rough for Southeast star Courtney Allen. The senior running back is the school's all-time leading rusher after he surpassed Dyral McMillan last week, and he's 15 yards shy of cracking the 3,000-yard mark for his career.
Allen has also broken the 100-yard rushing barrier in two games this fall, but the Noles haven't benefited from his outstanding play.
"He's had to go through some problems with when he was ineligible, last season people were asking him ... wondering why he was doing that," Maechtle said. "Now he's a senior and he's an answer guy for people in the community. It's hard for him. It's a growing experience for him."
The sluggish beginning to 2013 isn't necessarily a curse for Southeast. The Noles can look to a 1998 Southeast squad that started 0-2 before recovering to make state final appearance.
Bayshore will be keen on limiting what Allen can do, with the old-fashioned tactic of chewing up the clock.
"He's a tremendous talent, and he's definitely a concern," Freeman said. "If we can minimize his production, we feel like we have a chance. If he's able to run wild, then it's going to be a tough game. ... If we manage the ball, then that means Courtney Allen is on the sidelines. I think that's the biggest key to victory is run the ball well, take care of the football, We've got to minimize our turnovers, be efficient and tackle Courtney Allen. I'm not selling the rest of team short; they do have some more talent on that team. But as Courtney goes, the team goes, in my opinion."