Meridian Star

June 14, 2014

SE Lauderdale looks to build off of 2013 playoff win

By Reed DeSalvo \
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN — The Southeast Lauderdale High School football team entered its 2013 first-round playoff matchup against higher-seed Morton High School as a heavy underdog.

But that didn't deter the Tigers as Southeast jumped out to an early two-touchdown advantage and capped the upset with a 24-21 victory.

“A lot of people didn’t believe in us, but we proved them wrong,” senior-to-be wide receiver Ladarius Shoemaker said. “We knew we were capable, but we just had to work out the problems that we had.”

Added senior receiver Damion Willis, “Going in, (outsiders) said that we were going to get blown out, but we changed a lot of people’s minds after that game.”

With 15 starters returning from last year's squad, the bar has now significantly risen under third-year coach Charles Black.

“We’ve got a good senior-laden team,” Black said. “We’ve got 16 seniors on the roster, and probably 14 of them are going to start.”

A bevy of skilled-position starters are set to lead a high-powered attack this fall, highlighted by the duo of senior quarterback Takari Brooks and the 6-foot-3 Willis, who hauled in over 1,300 receiving yards last season.

“We’re not asking him to win the game by himself,” Black said of Brooks. “He’s got some great weapons around him and a solid offensive line. We’ll be asking him to take care of the ball and be a little bit more of a dual-threat quarterback. He now has a year under his belt and he understands what we are trying to do offensively. ”

Said Willis, “We worked a lot together. He was willing to put the work in, along with the other wide receivers, and we were able to develop a great connection on the field.

In addition to the Tiger’s aerial assault, Black plans to wear down defenses with an experienced offensive line and a talented group of tailbacks.

“I want to control the game and control the clock,” he said. “We’ve had a good passing attack the past few years, but we want to be and will be balanced this season. I like to be able to run; I like to be able to control the game.”

Said Willis, “I think we have the best offense in our district.”

Defensively, Southeast is based out of a 4-3 front, and relies on the experience and wisdom of third-year starting Mike linebacker Padarius Martin to lead the group.  

“He’s the one that makes sure everyone gets lined up properly,” Black said. “He’s so important because he understands what I’m asking. He’s a good football player and very smart. In order for us to have a good year, he needs to have a good year.”

Added Martin, “It’s a big responsibility. Learning the defense is easy, but I have to relay that to the younger kids and make sure they understand what we’re doing.”

A pair of those younger players to whom Martin will have to communicate to this fall are the starting safeties: sophomores JaMarcus Ivey and Josh Holliday.

“They are both extremely talented,” Black said. “They both love to hit. If both of them keep learning and progressing we’ll be in good shape.”

Additionally, Martin said he feels his senior campaign will only be successful if he is able to lead the Tigers to a third-round playoff appearance or better.

Black echoed Martin’s sentiments on the high prospects that 2014 could bring.

“I have high expectations, and my players have high expectations,” Black said. “I’ll be really disappointed if we don’t have a good season. If we can avoid the injury bug, I think we’ll be pretty good.”