BRADENTON -- Ever since he was old enough to understand the game of football, Kevin Johnson wanted to play for Paul Maechtle at Southeast.
During his 33 years as Southeast head football coach, Maechtle had a reputation of turning running backs into special players. Johnson wanted to avail himself of this good fortune.
But in a situation that would've seemed highly unlikely a few short years ago, Maechtle will try to turn Johnson into something less than ordinary and the Seminoles' leading rusher will try to spoil what is supposed to be a special occasion for the legendary coach.
This scenario will unveil itself Friday night, when Cardinal Mooney visits Southeast and the veteran coach's former school will officially name the turf Paul Maechtle Field.
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"I don't think the sign is big enough for all the names that deserve to be on it besides mine," Maechtle said. "Our success was predicated on the fact that Southeast enrollment increased at the time we were developing and that made it advantageous for us."
John Warren took over for Maechtle and limped to a 1-9 record last year. After starting this season with three straight losses, the Seminoles have improved to 2-3 and Warren doesn't want to lose the momentum.
"We have a chance to get to .500, but ruin his night. I think he will understand. He is a good man," Warren said. "Anytime you can honor a great person like that it's awesome. What a great man. But we want to win and keep building our confidence."
Maechtle retired from coaching after the 2013 season but was persuaded to help at Cardinal Mooney, where his grandson plays.
Now he is defensive coordinator for the Cougars and will be the center of attention Friday night in a role he would just as soon leave to someone else.
"Had I known Southeast might be playing Cardinal Mooney in the near future, I don't know if I would've gotten involved," Maechtle said. "I thought it was safe to go there and I would never be in this position."
One benefit in Maechtle's mind is that his new coaching role keeps him from atending Southeast games, something he said was likely if he wasn't coaching elsewhere.
"I didn't want it to seem like I was there looking over their shoulder," he said. "The coaching staff should be allowed to do its own thing without me being there."
Many of the juniors and seniors currently on the Southeast squad played for Maechtle. They love their former coach, but this game offers the Seminoles a chance to turn things around.
"I grew up wanting to be coached by him, that was the No. 1 reason I wanted to go to Southeast," Johnson said. "This game will be emotional for me because he was my role model as a kid. Coach Maechtle taught me character and responsibility. No matter what happened he would always say keep your composure."
Southeast senior offensive linemen Mike Davis and Ben Hoyle, whose jobs will be to open holes for Johnson, will do their best, but said their feelings run the gamut.
"For me, coming here and knowing he was a legend, I pretty much listened to everything he had to say because he knew what he was talking about. I have mixed emotions, but the main goal is beat him," Davis said.
Hoyle, now a center, played two years for Maechtle and his brother, Andrew, finished his career under the legendary coach.
"He taught me a lot about myself and acted as a grandfather to me when my grandfather passed away," Hoyle said. "This game is going to be very emotional to me."
The Southeast players have much more history with Maechtle than anyone on Mooney. He coached several generations of athletes at his former school.
"A lot of them are kids of the parents I coached, their uncles, dads. The neighborhood runs pretty deep," Maechtle said. "A lot of them were asking me, are you going to coach my son and nephew, and I told them I would be gone. They were disappointed, but it wasn't just me, believe me. It's kind of amazing, being in one place so long. That is a lot of Friday nights."
None of those Friday night will be quite like this one coming up.