Back in the Game: Five-time state champion coach Pilcher returns to Berrien as OC

Wenda G. Bailey | Special to the TimesBerrien offensive coordinator Ed Pilcher looks on during a summer practice session. Pilcher compiled 169 wins in 17 seasons at Thomas County Central. He later spent five seasons with Bainbridge and three as Berrien's head coach.

NASHVILLE –– A Georgia high school coaching legend is back in the game on Friday nights.

After sitting out all of the 2018 season, Ed Pilcher returns to coaching Friday night as offensive coordinator of the Berrien Rebels when they host the Irwin County Indians.

Pilcher, who once guided Thomas County Central to five state championships in the mid-90s, is glad to be back in the game he loves.

“I feel better. I'm able to go out there and contribute a little bit,” Pilcher said. “(Berrien coach Tim Alligood) asked me if I would come help him run the offense, and I told him I would. We're in the process of doing it and so far it's been fine.”

Pilcher established the split-back veer offense at Central and it stayed as the school's primary offensive attack for almost 30 years. As the GHSA season starts this weekend, high school fans will notice most Georgia teams operate some form of the spread offense. Pilcher said Berrien may show flashes of the spread this season but the team's bread and butter remains the veer attack. 

“We go into some spread looks a little bit, not much, but we're predominantly going to be running the veer. We run it out of the spread, too,” Pilcher said. “We have some packages that we use when we're not under center. We're really just trying to learn the basics right now. Eventually we'll evolve into doing some other things but now it's pretty much veer 101.”

Many of Pilcher's current players he helped coach in middle school in 2017. That followed his first season of retirement in 2016, which came on the heels of his final year as head coach of the Rebels in 2015.

It was a difficult 2018 season for Pilcher. Not only was he unable to serve in a coaching capacity, he struggled with health issues, specifically with his kidneys, which are still a concern for him today. He's had to tone down his coaching style. He uses a golf cart for practices. The unbearable summer heat has been unkind to him as well.

“I get tired pretty easy. The heat gets me a little bit, not too bad, but I have to be careful,” Pilcher said.

Pilcher will coach in the press box on Friday nights. It allows him to rest throughout the game while also getting a better view of the field. It's not the same as being on the sidelines but at least he's part of the action.

“I'm enjoying it and having a big time doing it, I really am, getting the juices flowing again a little bit,” Pilcher said.

As for what lies ahead, Pilcher is taking it one year at a time. After being sidelined last season, it's all he can do.

“That's what it's going to be like, one year at a time and see how it goes, see how things progress and how my health is and what I want to do. I'm enjoying it. It's all good right now, it really is,” Pilcher said.

Friday night's game is slated for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.

Pilcher compiled 169 wins in 17 seasons at Central. He later spent five seasons with Bainbridge and three as Berrien's head coach.

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