High School Sports

For Southeast's Kevin Johnson it's simple: We have to win

The Seminoles answer the previous Manta Ray scoring drive by scoring their own by a 10 yard run by running back Kevin Johnson (15) at the 6:43 mark of the third quarter. The Lemon Bay Manta Rays traveled to Bradenton to play the Southeast Seminoles in football action on Friday evening, October 16, 2015. 
 DAVID W DOONAN/Special To The Herald
The Seminoles answer the previous Manta Ray scoring drive by scoring their own by a 10 yard run by running back Kevin Johnson (15) at the 6:43 mark of the third quarter. The Lemon Bay Manta Rays traveled to Bradenton to play the Southeast Seminoles in football action on Friday evening, October 16, 2015. DAVID W DOONAN/Special To The Herald sports@bradenton.com

They're young, unassuming and won't take no for an answer.

This current Southeast High football team reminds you of those old ones whose rosters included Peter Warrick, Adrian McPherson, Brett Timmons and Daryl McMillan -- just to name a few.

Oh, I'm are not saying these 2015 Seminoles are as talented. But that similar attitude is obvious.

After a crushing district loss to Lemon Bay at home, Southeast boarded the bus to face Wauchula Hardee in a must-win game last Friday.

"Nobody thought we had a chance," Southeast head coach John Warren said.

It seemed like reasonable thinking. Since they joined the same district in 2011, Southeast had lost three-of-four to Hardee, including two in Wauchula where they were drilled 35-7 two years ago.

But then, this new attitude slipped in, and the Noles beat the Wildcats 21-14 to set up a possible three-way tie with Hardee and Lemon Bay.

"Our kids were more ready to play that night than any night," Warren said. "It was like we backed the tiger into the cage and he was pinned into a corner. Now you're getting the best of each one of our players, and our defense is playing lights-out."

These Seminoles are too young to feel fear, and too naive to recognize adversity.

Lee Martin, a sophomore safety who played JV last year and just recently earned a starting job, intercepted a pass and returned it 85 yards for a touchdown in the second half, which played an instrumental role in the victory.

"I've always had a dream to execute big plays, and then it happened," Martin said. "I read the play and then it came to me like a line drive and I broke on it. Now, to be in a position to win a district feels great."

The defense has gotten a big boost from junior Dequan Williams, who has come off two knee surgeries in the last two years and leads the Noles with 17 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks.

These Southeast youngsters have a nice group of seniors to remind them that nothing comes easy. The best of that group is senior Kevin Johnson, the Noles' jack-of-all-trades.

Manatee County's leading rusher, Johnson is now back at quarterback. When he boarded the bus for Wauchula last Friday, Johnson said everyone outside of the Southeast family was thinking they would lose, but it wasn't going to deter him.

Johnson was a starter on last year's 1-9 team, and this team that lost 12-of-13 before the Noles came back to win four of their next five.

"The key to beating Hardee was that we have a nasty defense, but we were also very determined and realized this was it," Johnson said. "Our seniors pulled together and got the young guys to follow. We were extremely disappointed losing to Lemon Bay."

Johnson would prefer to play running back and feels he is more effective there, but he is willing to do what he can to help the team that was unexpectedly left in a difficult situation.

"I like to run downhill, but there are definitely a few tweaks to our offense we will have. It's adjustable ... I played it before and it's not like I'm just now coming over to quarterback," Johnson said.

Among the possible scenarios Friday night, If Southeast, Lemon Bay and Hardee all win or all lose, there will be a three-team tiebreaker Monday evening at Lemon Bay.

A Southeast win and Lemon Bay loss will give the Seminoles the district title, and Hardee would be district runner-up. A Southeast victory and Hardee loss would make Lemon Bay district champs and Southeast would go to the playoffs as district runner-up.

The Seminoles have the toughest task, facing a Booker team that has talent and athleticism, but has hurt itself with turnovers and penalties. But Johnson doesn't even want to think of a scenario that would lead to his team coming up short.

"This game means everything to me. I've been working these past three years to get this program back to a district championship," Johnson said. "This Booker game means absolutely everything to me. We have to win."

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