BRADENTON -- When the call came informing him he had been named Southeast High School's new head football coach, John Warren was excited.
And a little surprised, too.
It wasn't that Warren didn't have faith in his own ability to pilot the Seminoles' football program. He just knew who he was up against.
"There were some quality coaches who wanted the job," Warren, 36, said Tuesday night from Illinois. "I know them personally and can say they are good coaches and fine citizens. I'm happily surprised I was chosen."
Warren beat out former Southeast assistants and players Matt Kitchie (head coach at Tampa Leto) and Brett Timmons (head coach and athletic director at Out-of-Door Academy), and Brian McKnight, a member of the Noles' coaching staff since
1992, in the quest to replace school legend Paul Maechtle, who stepped down after last fall.
Maechtle, Southeast's head coach since 1981, won 283 games and lost only 105. During his reign, Southeast won two state championships, eight regional titles and 17 district championships, and went to the state championship game five times.Those are the huge shoes Warren will have to fill and he said he knows succeeding Maechtle won't be easy.
"There's going to be pressure, but I look at it as a plus," Warren said. "I don't have to rebuild or start over -- I'm just trying to build on Coach Maechtle's legacy. No job is easy."
Warren is not an unknown to Southeast High School football. Warren coached receivers and quarterbacks under Maechtle in 2012 before leaving to become the head coach at Massac County High in Metropolis, Ill., where he guided the Patriots to a 3-6 record a year after they went 0-9.
Warren was also an assistant baseball coach and taught physical education at Southeast.
"I enjoyed working with him," said Maechtle, who wasn't on the hiring committee. "We were disappointed to lose him because at the time, we needed a good receivers coach.
"It was four very good candidates, and it must have been a very difficult decision for our administration. But I think they picked a very good man and I wish him the best of luck."
"His commitment to excellence, high energy, high level of expectations, integrity and knowing our great traditions make him an outstanding coach to replace Coach Paul Maechtle," Southeast Principal Jim Pauley said of Warren.
Warren's first stint at Southeast came after spending three years at Cypress Christian in Texas, where he coached the middle school team and served as a varsity assistant.
"It came to the time where we needed to get closer and to be by family," said Warren, whose mom is a Southeast graduate who still lives a few miles from the school. "Turned out they were hiring for an assistant position."
Warren also worked as an assistant for one year at Fairfield Community High in Illinois and played college ball at McKendree College, University of Tennessee at Martin and Kentucky Wesleyan. He saw time at quarterback, wide receiver and defensive back.
Warren is still in Illinois but plans on being in Bradenton long before spring football, which officially gets underway May 1.
"I'm going to be down there before spring ball so I can get the ball rolling," he said. "We just haven't worked out all the Xs and Os yet, so I don't know the exact date.
"It hasn't been more than eight months since I've been on campus, and I know it's a special place to be and I'm privileged to be a head coach there. Southeast has a bunch of kids and coaches who love football, and I don't have to start from scratch."
John Lembo, prep football reporter, can be reached at email@example.com.