Maechtle's goodbye a night to remember

November 9, 2013 

BRADENTON -- They came from all walks of life, black and white, young and old, male and female, from down the street and out of state.

The reason was to honor a legend and to say thanks.

Paul Maechtle does that to people whose lives he has touched.

After 33 years of coaching the Southeast High football team, Maechtle walked the sidelines for the last time Friday night at John Kiker Memorial Stadium.

It was an event you didn't want to miss.

Reggie Davis, who played on Southeast's two state championship teams under Maechtle in 1993

and '94 and then won a national title at Florida under Steve Spurrier, called Maechtle his favorite coach.

Those two words, "favorite coach," put this night into perspective.

"Coach Maechtle is a stand up guy. I love him to death. He meant a lot to me, this program and also to this community," Davis said. "He was a guy who commanded respect and was able to relate to the kids and was a father figure to many. He never used profanity and was always able to get his point across in a respectful way. He always had a steady calmness about him."

Rich Robich, linebacker on the Seminoles' '93 state championship team and Class 4A player of the year before playing collegiately at the University of Georgia, traveled from Jacksonville to pay tribute.

"I couldn't miss this. I could go on and on about what he meant to me. But to the whole community he has been an icon," Robich said. "I know they use that word a lot, but it is truly one of things you hear when it comes to coach Maech. It's going to be weird not to see him out there anymore. He put his footprint on this program and this community."

The players on this 2013 team never got to experience the success of Maechtle's predecessors that included 17 district championships, more than 25 post season appearances, two state titles, five state final games and eight regional championships.

But they knew about his legend. They watched his teams play when they were growing up and had fathers, uncles and nephews who played during the glory years at Southeast.

They reached back and grabbed a little of that past in defeating Palmetto 34-26 on Friday night. It was only the third victory of their 10-game season, but somehow they gathered the momentum to send Maechtle out on a high note.

"I couldn't believe these were the same kids. They tackled, they blocked and they wrapped up. It makes you want to keep playing," Maechtle said after the game.

Courtney Allen, the only player on this team whose talent equaled that of the great Southeast players of the past, made this game a memorable one and capped his career off by finishing as the No. 2 career rusher in Manatee County history.

"The players had a meeting by ourselves and said we were going to win this game for coach Maech," Allen said. "He put in so much time in for us that even though our record was real bad we said we were going to give it everything that we could for him. Thankfully we got him the W.

"Coach Maechtle was like a father to me. He taught me a lot of things from day one, since I came here as a freshmen to now as a senior. When I had problems academically he motivated me telling me 'what are you going to do work, hard or give up?' and I really appreciated that."

In true Maechtle fashion the coach would not take credit for this team and said he didn't know what motivated his kids to play with so much passion on this night.

He laughed a little because we knew that he knew.

"It's nice to finish with a win. It makes you want to keep it going, but I need a break. That was some of the best tackling I've seen our team play all year. Tonight they played like Southeast football players," Maechtle said.

And Friday night, Southeast said goodbye to a legend.

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