By David Fong
WEST MILTON — One of the many driving forces behind Bret Pearce’s return to coaching was, in fact, a driving force.
“Once your kids can drive, you don’t have to worry so much about driving them to practices,” said Pearce, who recently was named head football coach at Milton-Union High School. He replaces Mark Lane, who stepped down after five years to focus more on his duties as Milton’s athletic director. “I quit football the first time to follow my kids around.”
This will be Pearce’s second stint as head coach of the Bulldogs. He was one of the most successful coaches in Milton history from 2000 to 2012, leading his team to the playoffs six times — including the first playoff appearance and playoff victory in school history — and to the Division IV regional championship game in 2006 and 2012.
He was the Ohio Associated Press Division IV Coach of the Year in 2002, a four-time Southwest Buckeye League Coach of the Year and a two-time Miami Valley Football Coaches Association Coach of the Year.
After taking two years off to spend more time with his family following his resignation in 2012, Pearce — a science teacher at Milton-Union — returned as Milton’s offensive coordinator in 2015, a position he has held the past three seasons. With one son now in college and another in his sophomore year at Northmont High School — coupled with Lane’s decision to step down — Pearce said the timing seemed perfect for him to take over as Milton’s head coach again.
“I missed it,” he said. “The two years I took off where I did nothing at all were rough in some ways. More than anything, I missed the kids. It’s great to see the kids develop. I found nothing that could replace it. I feel like getting to coach kids is a pretty unique experience. I’m in a situation now with my own kids where this works out pretty well. My oldest son is in college and my younger son is a sophomore. He’s in the marching band, but most of their competitions are on Saturdays, so I can still see him perform.”
Pearce said he hopes the past two decades he’s spent at Milton will help him even more during his second tenure as head coach.
“The first time I was a lot younger and I thought I was ready,” he said. “But I really didn’t know the kids or the community. This time I’m a little older and, I hope, a little wiser. I’ve been a part of this community for the past 18 years. Hopefully that will make a difference.”
Spending the past three years as the team’s offensive coordinator — along with being a teacher in the school — also gives Pearce plenty of familiarity with his personnel. He said he plans on molding his coaching philosophy around the players he has available to him.
“My basic philosophy has always been to fit the system around the kids,” he said. “That will not change. There were some years where we lined up in shotgun spread and some years where we liked up in double tights and ran the ball 90 percent of the time.”
Pearce said he never really expected to become the head coach again, but once the opportunity presented itself, he didn’t have to spend much time mulling over the decision.
“I was in shock (Lane) hung it up, because I knew how much he enjoyed coaching,” he said. “But now he’s going to have a lot of opportunities to help kids in different ways as athletic director. When he asked me, I didn’t have to think about it too long. I just wanted to make sure I was making the right decision. I didn’t want to rush into anything. When time didn’t change my mind, that just further solidified it.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong