BRADENTON -- The official waved the chain gang over to the home side of John Kiker Memorial Stadium on Friday night.
A little over a minute remained in the career of Paul Maechtle, Southeast's legendary head coach who announced his retirement earlier in the week, and the ensuing measurement would go a long way toward deciding whether Maechtle would go out with a victory.
The stage was set, the chain was stretched and the call was made.
First down, Southeast.
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And moments later, the Seminoles were toasting a 34-26 victory over Palmetto, giving Maechtle the 281st and last win in a 33-year head-coaching career that included two state titles and five trips to the state final.
After receiving a warm smile and hug at midfield from Palmetto coach Dave Marino, an assistant on Maechtle's staff when the Seminoles won back-to-back titles in 1993 and '94, Maechtle was surrounded by a large group of friends, relatives and former players while his current players chanted his name.
"The whole thing's bittersweet - when you come out and play like this, you want to keep it going," said Maechtle, whose team finished 3-7. "But I need a break. Those hills started getting high to climb in 1997, and I think I've climbed up enough of them."
After a rough season that included last week's loss to Booker that eliminated them from postseason contention, the Seminoles played with a purpose Friday from the beginning - Larry Woodard took the opening kick 70 yards for a touchdown.
The teams traded leads and scores throughout the night before Courtney Allen's 47-yard touchdown run with 5:42 left in the third quarter have Southeast a 27-26 lead.
Allen, a senior, scored three touchdowns and totaled 193 yards. He leaves with 3,838 yards for his career, ranking him second all-time in Manatee County behind Manatee's Shevin Wiggins.
The Noles stretched the lead to 34-26 when James Thomas and Deanthony Warrick connected for a 25-yard scoring strike with 9:12 left in the game, a play set up by Dyron Williams' 41-yard run when Southeast faked a punt.
"I should have said I was over during the first week of the season," Maechtle said. "That wasn't the same group that played all year long."
It was a frustrating night for Palmetto (5-5), which opens the Class 7A-Region 3 playoffs next week at Tarpon Springs East Lake.
"I have all the respect for Coach Maech and I'm excited that he gets to go out on top, but we've got to worry about our own football team," Marino said. "We've got to get some things straightened out if we want to go into these playoffs and do anything."
Quincy Washington, playing for an injured Josh Hicks (ankle), ran for 144 yards and a pair of scores. But Marino was concerned with the play of his special teams, beginning with Woodard's return.
"We're just making too many blunders and giving teams way too many freebies in the kicking game," Marino said. "We gave them the first touchdown. We're right there to make a tackle and we stand around and watch."
It was far happier seen on the far side of the stadium, where Maechtle was lost in a sea of former players, current players and well-wishers.
"When I walked out into the stadium," Maechtle said, "it was real special to see all these people here."
Southeast 34, Palmetto 26
Score by quarters
Palmetto 7 13 6 0 -- 26
Southeast 13 7 7 7 -- 34
S - Larry Woodard 70 kickoff ret (kick failed, bad snap), 11:49
S - Courtney Allen 64 run (Ricardo Rodriguez kick), 8:58
P - Quincy Washington 18 run (Evan Kitchell kick), 7:43
P - Washington 20 run (kick failed), 5:24
S - Allen 2 run (Rodriguez kick), 1:27
P - Joshua Shelman 3 run (Kitchell kick), :29.3
P - Jacquill Daniels 26 pass from Sean Allison (kick failed, bad snap), 8:28
S - Allen 47 run (Rodriguz kick), 5:42
S - Deanthony Warrick 25 pass from James Thomas (Rodriguez kick), 9:42
RUSHING - PALMETTO 33-171: Quincy Washington 25-144, Jacquill Daniels 2-21, Joshua Shelman 4-16, Sean Allison 2-(-10); SOUTHEAST 34-259: Courtney Allen 27-193, James Thomas 3-15, Dyron Williams 1-41, Larry Woodard 1-1, Demarquis Brice 1-9, Kevin Johnson 1-0.
PASSING - PALMETTO 10-27-0, 160: Allison 10-27-0, 160; SOUTHEAST 9-17-0, 102: Thomas 9-17-0, 102.
RECEIVING - PALMETTO 10-160: Katrell Hubbard 4-103, Daniels 3-38, Simon Williams 1-12, Hank Allison 1-5, Washington 1-2; SOUTHEAST 9-102: Deanthony Warrick 3-35, Woodard 2-42, Brice 1-15, Ryan Eberly 1-3, Cecil Richardson 2-7.