Prep football | Southeast shreds North Port for statement win in spring game

NORTH PORT -- Southeast tackle Mike Davis stood outside the visiting locker room following the Seminoles' 56-14 bludgeoning of North Port in their lightning-shortened spring game, discussing the Noles' first touchdown and wearing a new shirt specifically designed for Southeast's offense lineman. The front read "Noles O-Line" and on the back was their new mantra: "Mean and Nasty."

Southeast's first touchdown, an 80-yard dash by athlete Qion Burch on the first play of the game, perfectly embodied what the linemen focused on during the offseason.

After 2014's 1-9 debacle, head coach John Warren singled out his offensive line as a position that needed to improve. With four returning starters, Warren knew his line could go from a weakness to a strength. He pushed the four rising seniors to be leaders and tried the make the position an area of pride at Southeast, hence the new shirts.

"I have to give it to the O-line because they push me to get in the weight room as much as possible so I can get better and they can get better," Jones said, "so that first touchdown's for the O-linemen."

The Seminoles only threw five passes during their spring game at North Port High School, instead relying on a rushing attack that produced two 100-yard rushers Tuesday before the game was called with 4:54 left in the fourth quarter. Jones carried five times for 141 yards, with touchdowns of 80 and 25 yards. Kevin Johnson logged nine carries for 146 yards with 11- and 35-yard touchdowns.

The first play of the game for the Noles began 80 yards away from the Bobcats' end zone with rising senior quarterback Joey Giardina lined up in the back field with Burch. Giardina handed off to his running back and Burch ran behind Davis at right tackle.

"Oh my goodness," Davis though as he saw Burch cut back across the field and race 80 yards for a statement touchdown.

"Emotion was high," he said after the game. "This lets us know that we have potential to get further than what we did last year."

Four plays later, Southeast started giving the ball to Johnston.

On the fourth play of North Port's first drive, a third-and-1 from its own 29, the Bobcats committed their first offensive mistake. The team was without its projected starting center, and fill-in Olivier Barolette's fourth snap of the game sailed over quarterback Miles Hayes' head. Defensive lineman Darrien Grant dove on the ball for the takeaway.

One of Warren's other focuses for the spring was cutting down on the turnovers that he said "killed" the Seminoles in 2014. On Tuesday, the Noles had one. North Port committed seven.

"We'll take 7-to-1. That was our goal," Warren said. "These are things that we worked extremely hard in these 19 practices to limit those and overcome those."

With the ball back in Southeast's possession at North Port's 20-yard line, the Seminoles gave Johnston his first chance of the game. The first play was a run to the right side, netting Johnston 9 yards and setting up a second-and-1. The second play was a plunge up the gut.

The first 5 yards came from hitting the hole his linemen opened up. The last six were a push after Johnson ran into a pile of defenders. He kept his legs churning for six more yards and less than three minutes into the game the Seminoles led 14-0.

"Every day we compete with each other so we can get better, to show everybody that we're great running backs," Burch said. "It was very important to show that Southeast is not going down. We're coming back to how we were back in the day."

The next play was the Bobcats' second turnover of the game and a pick six for Burch. NPHS's next drive ended with a turnover, too -- a fumble recovered by linebacker Dehonta James -- and four plays later, Giardina connected with Tyler Stevenson for an 18-yard touchdown.

After a three and out, Giardina needed only two more plays to hook up with Stevenson from 41 yards out for their second touchdown of the game.

With less than seven minutes gone, the Noles led 35-0.

"Last year we didn't have much confidence because, look, the record was 1-9," Davis said, "and for what we just did, that was great."