Giving thanks in all circumstances

Mark Peach was at ease as we talked in his office at Anderson County High School in 2019. (Photo by John Herndon)

As he leaves his hometown, Mark Peach believes his unexpected relocation is a way to glorify God

By John Herndon, 110forChrist.com

Mark Peach’s greeting was much the same as it had been nearly every time we talked during his tenure as head football coach at Anderson County High School.

He sported a broad smile before delivering a comical salute. I can’t tell you when he began saluting me, then sort of rolling his hands while slightly bowing. I guess that greeting is because I not only covered almost every game he coached at Anderson but also was there nearly every time he got in a three-point stance during a career that made him an all-state tackle. 

In addition, I had covered some of his games at Paul L. Dunbar and Campbellsville University in between those stints at Anderson. 

“Come on in. Have a seat,” he said.

His couch was open. So was his seat, situated across from a television tuned to the SEC Network. But mostly there were boxes. Lots of boxes.

Mark Peach, who is the winningest coach in Anderson County football history, is moving on. He’ll be relocating this week as he takes on a new challenge at Trigg County High School in far western Kentucky. And he’s more than thankful for a chance to begin anew at a school with a solid football tradition.

“It’s been unreal,” Peach says. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”

Mark Peach consoles his son, Brett, after Anderson County had fallen to Madison Southern in a hard-fought game in the second round of the 2017 state playoffs. (Photo by John Herndon)

Peach coached 15 years at Anderson, compiling a 114-63 record. His Bearcat teams won four district championships and two regional titles. Anderson, which was formed in 1949, had one district title and no regional crowns prior to Peach’s arrival. Anderson made the state Class 5A championship game in 2011 and recorded two unbeaten regular seasons, the most recent coming in 2018, during his time at the helm. 

So when Anderson administrators informed him he was being relieved of his football coaching duties in late February, it sent shock waves through the state’s gridiron fraternity.

Did Peach have any inkling that he would be booted from his alma mater after winning more than 64 percent of his games? “None,” he said.

There had been some rumblings around the Anderson camp. The Bearcats finished 31-25 and had posted three losing seasons in the last five years. But that had followed five years of going 49-17 and advancing to at least the regional finals four of those campaigns.

Now, Mark  Peach is at peace. Less than three months after being let go, he’s upbeat again. When asked how much it hurt when he was told he would not be on the Anderson sideline this year, he smiled and said, “I really don’t want to go into that now.”

Instead, he’s focused on his new opportunity. It’s a fresh start with a program boasting a rich football tradition. Trigg’s Perdue Field is considered one of western Kentucky’s gems and is usually packed and buzzing on Friday nights. 

Peach saw that tradition up close during his first head coaching job at Hancock County. The first step in a run that led to a state Class A runner-up finish was a 62-19 district win over Trigg. The following year, Trigg turned the tables with a 52-28 win in Cadiz. 

“I remember what a great atmosphere they had at Trigg County,” Peach said. “They have had some great coaches there. They were state runner-up under Dixie Jones (in 1989) and they won a couple of state championships (1971, 1972) under Joe Jaggers. And when you think of great players, they had Al Baker. They had Robert Stinson.

Baker, considered one of the nation’s top recruits in 1985, played at Kentucky while Stinson was a starting defensive tackle for Kentucky’s Peach Bowl team in 1993. 

Mark Peach’s Anderson County teams often came onto the field carrying an American flag. He often tells his teams stories from American history and strives to show Christ in his program.

At Trigg, Peach will be back in the classroom for the first time in several years. He had run a computer lab at Anderson, but Peach will be teaching social studies at Trigg. That should suit him fine since he’s a history buff and for the last 10 years, had incorporated a “Band of Brothers” theme at Anderson — based on Easy Company in the 101st Airborne Division from World War II for which the Band of Brothers miniseries was filmed — and sometimes told stories from the past to make points of emphasis for his team. 

As Peach moves in a direction few would have imagined when last season ended with a first-round playoff loss at Boyle County. Anderson had gotten off to a promising 4-2 start but the Bearcats dropped one they felt they should not have — and then limped through a murderous end-of-season stretch — Boyle County, Lexington Catholic, Bardstown and Boyle again in the playoffs — to finish at 4-7.

But Peach was still the local guy at Anderson, the all-stater in high school who had become the program’s all-time winningest coach.  Few saw a dismissal coming. 

“It’s coaching,” Peach said with a big smile. “Do you remember Bill Belichick with the Browns? He was fired and went to the Patriots and became one of the greatest coaches ever!”

He laughed, then took a brief pause.

“Did you watch The Last Dance?” he asked about the acclaimed ESPN series about the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls. “They won six (NBA) championships but after the last one they basically said, ‘Thank you for your service. We are going in a different direction.’

“In the Bible, Joseph is one of my favorite characters. He was sold as a slave and then put in prison. But eventually he became second in command to the Pharaoh (in Egypt). You know, I Thessalonians 5:16 says to give thanks in all circumstances.”

His life circumstances included a teammate from Peach’s playing days at Campbellsville University who had previously been an administrator in the Trigg County schools. He knew of the opening. “We talked and he said, ‘I think you would love it there,’” Peach remembers.

And two summers ago, Peach and his wife, Julie, vacationed on Lake Barkley. “We commented then what a nice area it was,” he said.

With everything in motion, Peach was a coach without a team for just over a month. 

“When one door closes, another opens,” he said. “We are people of faith and just try to bring God the glory.”

Mark Peach, left, talks with me for The Anderson News following Anderson County’s 14-10 loss to Highlands in the second round of the 2018 state playoffs. (Photo by Stephanie Herndon)

And he is convinced God was at work in what had been an unexpected move. He was eager to shark an important detail of his relocation process.  “One day, Bro. Terry (Cooper of Ninevah Christian Church) prayed with us in his office,” Peach said..”He prayed with us to do God’s will. Three days later, I had a job offer from Trigg County.”

In addition, Peach’s wife has been able to transfer from her job with the Commonwealth of Kentucky in Frankfort to another state office in Hopkinsville, where the Peach family has bought house about 15 minutes from Mark’s new place of employment. 

When Peach was introduced as Anderson’s new coach in December of 2004, he had said he wanted to bring a state championship to his hometown. He fell one win short of that goal in 2011, but in that same interview he said his main goal was to incorporate what he had learned from his college coach, Ron Finley, to put Christ in his program. 

“I tried,” he said. “I have been here 15 years and we had some guys that entered the military. We had some who went into the ministry. We get to see guys become successful fathers. To think you might have been a small part of that process, it makes you happy.”

2 thoughts on “Giving thanks in all circumstances

  1. Trigg Co. is Blessed to have Mark Peach as their new head football coaches. I had the privilege to be Mark’s OL coach when he was in college. Mark has his Priorities in order … first and foremost, he is a Christian – a man of Integrity / a Family Man / a Teacher / a Coach / he knows Football and he is a Winner. Go Wildcats !

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  2. Congratulations to Mark. I was privileged to be superintendent of schools at Hancock County when he coached for us. He took us to the state play off and provided some memorable Friday nights. A good man, educator and coach. Trigg County is fortunate.

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