High School Football

Anxiety level rises as football postseason draws near

As we head into the stretch run of the season, you can feel the anxiety level rising.

One mistake can cost a team a postseason berth.

Southeast head coach Rashad West had a particularly rough day last Saturday. He missed nearly all of the game because of his grandmother’s funeral and then saw his team get manhandled in an upset loss to Cardinal Mooney. The Noles didn’t practice Thursday and Friday because of the weather, which didn’t help.

“It was obviously a tough time dealing with all that and trying to prepare our guys. I am not looking to repeat a week like that,” West said. “I was surprised at the outcome. They played really well and we didn’t. They were more physical and played a bit harder.”

Adding to a somewhat peculiar scenario is that Paul Maechtle, the man who turned Southeast into a storied program, was on the Mooney sideline helping to engineer what many will call the biggest upset loss in the Noles history.

“It’s odd in general not seeing him in Orange and Blue; he put together a good game plan,” West said.

The best thing for Southeast is that it is 2-0 in Class 5A-11 and controls its own playoff path with three consecutive district games starting Friday at Lemon Bay.

“Right now, it’s got to be about us and playing better and with a level of intensity that we need to in order to be district champs,” West said.

The one thing that has stood out has been the Noles defense and its ability to pressure opposing quarterbacks. They have 88 tackles for losses, including four players with double digit TFLs; Dequan Williams (22), Schneider Pierre (12), Jon Locke (11) and Teriq Houston (10).

After watching film from the Mooney game, West had a simple message for his players.

“I didn’t have to tell them a lot. I think they realized we did not match their (Mooney) intensity,” West said. “To a man I asked them to watch and be honest with yourself; do you think you could play harder. We just got to go out there and play harder and fly to the ball and we will be all right.”

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Here is some food for thought heading into Friday night:

Braden River is at Venice in a battle of unbeaten teams and a lot has been made of the Pirates’ weak schedule and that the five teams they’ve beaten are a combined 3-27. But the host Indians have beaten only one team with a winning record (albeit it is Manatee on 3 days rest) and the teams they defeated are a combined 11-19.

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Manatee’s defense has been stellar in its three district games allowing 24 total points. The question everyone is asking is whether the defense has actually improved or this is just the result of playing in a weak district. Coach John Booth isn’t taking any chances, which is why is he is working running back Josh Booker at linebacker for the postseason.

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What’s wrong with Lakewood Ranch?

How about injuries, bad luck and an offensive line that has not produced as expected. The one game the Mustangs figured to win was rained out (Bayshore), and now they are looking at North Port and DeSoto County (last two games) to salvage some victories.

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Can Palmetto finally win a must-win game, which they weren’t able to do during the disappointing era of quarterback Jack Allison. The Tigers are home for their big games against Braden River and Venice so no excuses.

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