Prep Rally | Scrappy, gritty Southeast Seminoles travel long road for district title shot

Scrappy and gritty sounds like a great name for a Vaudevillian duo.

Or the low-rent version of a Tom and Jerry cartoon.

In the world of sports, however, scrappy and gritty are backhanded compliments. Attach either one of the adjectives to a team, and it's like telling your buddy that the blind date you set him up with has a great personality.

That's not the case with the Southeast Seminoles.

The Seminoles are good. They have one of the area's best running backs, a pair of playmaking receivers, a vastly improved quarterback and a legendary head coach who has seen and done everything a high school football coach can.

But tonight they have a chance to win the Class 5A-District 10 title at Palmetto, a position the Noles have scratched and clawed -- and scrapped and gritted -- their way into.

It's crazy what Southeast has been through this football season, beginning in Week 1, when a meticulous, nine-minute scoring drive engineered by quarterback Myles Braxton-Johnson was wiped away when Largo won the game by converting a two-point conversion with no time on the clock.

Then came another humbling defeat at the hands of archrival Manatee.

Southeast drove all the way to Arcadia DeSoto for a key district clash the following week before rain and lightning intervened, postponing the game before either team could get a snap.

So the Seminoles returned to Arcadia the following Monday and won. Four nights later, with Braxton-Johnson reduced to the role of spectator by a concussion, they erased a 20-3 halftime deficit to beat Riverview.

It's never supposed to be easy.

But is it really supposed to be this hard?

Of course, things stopped being easy for the Seminoles years ago. The construction of two new high schools in East Manatee has taken a chunk out of Southeast's enrollment and sapped the team of its depth.

This was the problem last fall, when running back Courtney Allen didn't play against district foes Wauchula Hardee and Palmetto. The Noles lost both games by a combined five points and missed the playoffs.

Then came that run from 2006-08 when the Seminoles appeared in three straight, three-way district tiebreakers.

Most programs go decades without appearing in one.

But maybe things are looking up. Southeast locked up a postseason berth last week, and next week's bye gives the Noles a chance to take a breath and heal a bit before the playoffs begin Nov. 16.

It hasn't been an easy trip, but the Noles are here, in the final week of district play, playing one of their biggest rivals for a championship and hoping to make another long postseason run.

It's always important to be good.

But a little scrap and grit can go a long way, too.

Just ask the Seminoles.

John Lembo, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2097. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnLembo1878.

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