SALIDA -- Steve Gleason and his assistants spent Friday night trying to piece back together Modesto Christian's fractured football program.
Only hours before, MC had fired first-year coach Bruce Pielstick after an 0-4 start and selected Gleason as the interim head coach. Dealing with the aftermath of the controversial call was the first task for Gleason and his coaches.
They made it a point to talk to each player, discussing not only the 44-35 loss to Orestimba, but the need to remain motivated and optimistic about the season's final five weeks.
They answered questions from parents and alumni who were anxious to hear how the mid-season coaching change might affect the Crusaders.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Merced Sun-Star
The consensus was Gleason had been successful in his initial meet-and-greet, but it will take time before MC is able to produce the unified front that helped produce a state crown.
Much of the euphoria from last year's state title has been lost. It began fading in April, when the school went outside the program for a head coach.
That disturbed some players and parents who wanted a head coach who was already inside MC's program. It got worse when the Crusaders gave up 56 points in their opener, were upset by Livingston and then lost to Downey.
A player's suicide the third week of the season led to a forfeit, injecting even more emotion into a volatile situation.
It culminated Friday morning when MC fired Bruce Pielstick, a week after he requested and received a leave of absence. MC was his first head coaching job, after 27 years as an assistant at seven schools.
MC's school board has little to say about why it fired Pielstick four games into his first season, other than it was not going to discuss the issue.
Pielstick refuses to discuss the firing, as well. That's part of an accord between the two, according to a school employee familiar with the firing.
The truth is, the board fired Pielstick because he was 0-4 and alienated parents paying $7,500 a year in tuition. Pielstick was an on-campus teacher, but that job is gone, too.
It wasn't a snap decision by the board, which knew it had upset part of the school's football support group by hiring an outsider to coach football.
MC's football family began to fracture shortly after Pielstick's hiring, and the chasm grew wider with each defeat. Parents began complaining to the school board, demanding that Pielstick be replaced.
Four games is a brief audition, but losing is frowned upon at MC. Last year's 15-0 season included a 40-21 win over Central Catholic -- the school's biggest win up to that point.
That victory had a decisive role in Pielstick's firing. Beating a legendary program like Central convinced some supporters that MC had arrived.
The Crusaders had spent a decade in Central's shadow. Three times they met for the Sac-Joaquin Section title and three times Central rolled, by scores of 62-21, 84-6 and 31-7.
Mike Parsons, who coached MC to its state title before taking the top job at Clovis West, made it clear during his tenure that a win over Central was one of his top priorities.
How did it affect Pielstick?
Central doesn't surrender 56 points in a game, nor does it lose four games in a row.
Fears that the football program was losing momentum it had gained from last year's state-title run convinced the board to act Friday morning.
Of course, MC now has the head coach that many felt it should have hired in April.
Gleason's lack of a teaching credential was a deal-breaker when MC was hiring a coach in April. It might still be, but Gleason said Friday that he'll eliminate that obstacle by getting his teaching credential.