BRADENTON -- What was supposed to be a festive night celebrating the opening of the high-school football season began on a somber note as Southeast High School recognized three former players who died this year.
The school paid tribute to Hiawatha Rutland, Todd Williams and Lawrence Williams.
Rutland, a star running back on Southeast's 1998 team that reached the state championship game, drowned last weekend in Lake Erie. The 33-year-old played for Iowa State University
Todd Williams, who played at Florida State and for four years in the NFL, died in January at age 35.
Lawrence Williams died in a car accident last month in Gadson County Florida at age 32. He was a graduate of Florida A&M University.
The Southeast football team took the field for a regular season game for the first time in 33 years without former coach Paul Maechtle walking the sidelines. He retired after last season and the Seminoles were under the leadership of John Warren against Lakewood Ranch.
It was also Military Appreciation Night at John Kiker Memorial Stadium as Southeast paid tribute to local representatives from all the branches of the armed services.
The Seminoles continued to struggle with turnovers and for the second straight year lost to Lakewood Ranch. The Mustangs never trailed and won 37-14.