PALMETTO -- For 10 years, Paul Maechtle and Dave Marino shared the same sideline at Southeast. They won two state titles and were runners-up once.
Now, for the second straight year, they will try to deny each other a district title.
Marino got the best of his former teacher last year when Palmetto defeated Southeast in a close game to win the title and keep the Seminoles from qualifying for the postseason.
Maechtle, the dean of area football coaches with 32 years at Southeast, didn't have a full roster with running back Courtney Allen sidelined. He said his team is the healthiest it has been all season and is hoping that will make a difference.
Marino said he owes a debt of gratitude to Maechtle for everything he learned during his stint at Southeast from 1990 through 1999. In many ways, it has helped him prepare for this game.
Both teams are headed for the playoffs. But the winner is Class 5A-District 10 champion and is guaranteed at least one home game in the postseason. The loser could play all its playoff games on the road.
"They are fast, very well-coached and in the right spots all the time. It really takes special individu
al performances to have success against them," Marino said. "It's a championship program. I know that first hand. I know what this game is all about. There is nothing easy about a championship game, especially against Southeast. You have to earn it."
Many of the things Marino used to help Palmetto become an upper echelon program the last couple of years, he learned from Maechtle.
"He taught me patience, organization and how to handle players on a more personable level," Marino said. "He has been committed to the same school for over 30 years, and that is what a lot of these kids need. In a society where half the kids grow up in single-parent homes, they are searching for structure, discipline, love and guidance. That is what Paul has provided for a lot of kids for a lot of years."
Despite the accolades, Marino will do his best to beat Maechtle. He is concerned about how his kids will react coming off a 62-0 drubbing last week against Manatee.
"You never know. These are 16- and 17-year-old kids," Marino said. "We have great senior leadership. They were champions last year and hopefully will lead the way for us and teach the younger players how to deal with adversity and channel that into something positive."
Southeast was beaten badly by Manatee, losing 52-13 on Sept. 28. The Seminoles also have had numerous injuries.
"I don't know how they feel about it, but coming off a big loss, you want to play the next day," Maechtle said. "Not making the playoffs last year is motivation for us, and we felt beating Hardee last week was a playoff game. When Dave coached for me, he introduced a blocking scheme that was new to me and he had a good relationship with the players. He is using his personnel a little differently because he's had two different boys at running back and hasn't been as ground-oriented as he would like. We have to worry about the height of their receivers when the ball is up in the air."
Southeast has to be concerned about ball security. The Noles didn't have much in last year's game. The Tigers won 16-13 with its defense scoring nine points. Palmetto's only touchdown came on a 22-yard drive that was set up by a fumble.
Southeast had five fumbles and lost three. Quarterback Myles Braxton-Johnson fumbled in the end zone on the Noles' first possession of the second half and Palmetto recovered it for a touchdown. With 17 seconds left in the first half, the Tigers got two points on a safety when they tackled punter Jordan Grabski in the end zone.
Allen is available this time, and Braxton-Johnson and Grabski are back to make amends. Southeast held Palmetto to 83 yards rushing and kept heralded running back Josh Hicks in check most of the game. He also is back.
Maechtle and Marino are the offensive coordinators for their respective teams. It gives them some insight into the other's schemes, but they agree they can't be sure what to expect dealing with 16- and 17-year-olds.
"We didn't play very well last year, and they played well. They were a very good football team," Maechtle said. "We had some guys banged up on defense earlier in the year, which gave some younger guys a chance to play and now that they are back it gives us more depth."
Palmetto lost nine starters off its defense from last year. The unit showed steady improvement until last week, but Manatee is averaging 50.3 points per game.
"Our defense has made great progression. The challenge for them being so young is how they respond after last week," Marino said. "If our defense handles it the right way, we are going to have a chance. Otherwise it will be a long night."