Modesto Christian coach requests leave

SALIDA -- Modesto Christian's football program, reeling after the suicide of a player and an 0-4 start, celebrated its first win Friday.

But first-year coach Bruce Pielstick wasn't with his team to enjoy the victory -- it would have been his first-ever as a head coach.

He asked for a leave of absence from the program early Friday, athletic director Greg Pearce confirmed prior to MC's 48-0 victory over Riverbank.

Offensive coordinator Steve Gleason, the lone assistant back from last year's state title team, is the interim coach. He was passed over for the job last spring, Pearce said, in part because the school wanted a credentialed teacher as coach and Gleason is not credentialed.

Pielstick was deeply affected by the suicide of a player two weeks ago, Pearce said. The Bee does not name juvenile victims of suicide.

"We had the memorial, and I think that's when it really hit Bruce," Pearce said. "It's been emotional for Bruce, for all of us. He needs time to make his decisions."

While Pearce said no final decision about Pielstick's status will be made until the coach meets with the administration and the school board, a number of people in the football program said the wheels are in motion.

Pielstick met with players this week to discuss the 0-4 start and friction that had developed between the team and its coach. He's also hearing from parents who were expecting more on the heels of last year's 15-0 campaign that ended in a state championship.

"It will be our decision, not one made by the parents or kids," Pearce promised.