All good things must come to an end, and so it was Friday night.
Steve Meek ended his 11-year ride as head coach of the Decatur Heritage Eagles.
The Eagles fell to Pickens County, 60-46, in the third round of the Class 1A state playoffs.
Decatur Heritage Christian Academy ends its season with a 10-3 record. Meek’s record at DHCA is 86-42 with four region championships.
Friday’s game was a microcosm of the Meek Era at Decatur Heritage. Standing on the field with Pickens County, it looked there was no way Meek’s team could compete.
It looked even worse at halftime when the Eagles trailed 28-6, but Meek’s teams are a reflection of their coach. They never give up, and they fight to the end.
Pickens County saw its lead cut to 52-39 with 4:51 left to play. There was plenty of time for a miracle comeback, but it just wasn’t meant to be.
After the game ended, Meek hugged players, coaches and friends on the football field. He couldn’t wait to get to his wife Sandra and daughter Laura, who were standing near the sideline. Their son Daniel missed the game due to hip surgery earlier in the day.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do on Friday nights during football season,” Laura said. “I’ve always gone to Daddy’s games.”
Meek, who turns 62 in December, let it be known back in the summer that this season would be his last. He said that it was time to leave before he wore out his welcome.
Considering what Meek has done with the program, it’s hard to believe anyone at DHCA would ever want him to leave. He had retired from Austin, where he was an assistant coach, in 2010. A year later he took over the infant football program at Decatur Heritage.
“We had a bunch of kids that didn’t even know how to put on a uniform,” Meek said. “They didn’t know which piece went where.”
His first DHCA team went 2-8 in 2011. That was followed by back-to-back 5-5 seasons. The 2014 team was the first to make the playoffs and finished at 6-5.
Starting in 2015, Decatur Heritage has been one of the elite programs in the state with a 68-19 record. The playoff streak is at eight consecutive seasons. The records are 12-2, 10-3, 8-3, 7-4, 12-1, 9-3 and 10-3. The playoff record is 10-7 with four trips to the third round and one trip to the semifinals.
“I don’t know all the numbers. What I do know is how much I have enjoyed being with these kids and the coaches,” Meek said. “We didn’t have any business being as good as we’ve been.”
Meek’s career record, counting five years at Lawrence County, is 103-75
“The reason we’ve been so good is these kids. They are warriors and give us everything they have. They never give up like we could have tonight. I’m so proud of how they came back in the second half and fought to the end. That’s special.”
Meek has coached 11 All-State players at Decatur Heritage. One of his last All-State players is quarterback Brayden Kyle, who has put his name in the state record book in several places this season.
“It’s cool that my senior class gets to go out together with Coach Meek,” Kyle said. “We all get to leave a special legacy at Decatur Heritage.”
As Meek left the field and worked this way to the locker room he was stopped by former players, parents and friends all with words of thanks.
“The best part of this experience is the special relationships I’ve had with so many people,” Meek said. “Those relationships will always be there.
“I’ve coached 36 years, and the last 11 years were the best of my career. Not many coaches can say that.”