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MOUNT WASHINGTON - Just three years after taking the helm and leading Bullitt East to the 2008 Class 4-A State Championship game, Charger head coach Doug Preston announced late last week that he is stepping down from the post.
On Monday, Preston said that he has no other coaching job lined up and that he plans to be teaching at Bullitt East next year where his daughter Ashton will be a senior.
“I resigned on Thursday,” Preston said. “I talked to the team that morning.
“Right now the plan is that I will stay at Bullitt East and teach,” the long-time coach said. “It wasn’t that I was heading somewhere else.”
That said, Preston is certainly not closing the door on coaching in a different situation in the future.
“I feel like I have 20 years of coaching left in me,” he pointed out. “I’ll coach again. I just don’t know the circumstances. I want to step back. The number one priority is my daughter who will be a senior next school year and my son who is in the fifth grade.”
Ashton is the president of the Junior Class at Bullitt East this year while her younger brother, Collin, is a fifth-grader at Old Mill Elementary.
Preston steps down as only the fourth coach in 31 years of football at Bullitt East. He steps down after posting a 17-19 record in three seasons.
The record will certainly not be the first memory for many Bullitt East fans. Preston will be recalled mostly for his first season at the helm when he stepped into the program when head coach Mike Settles stepped down to take the job at Lincoln County High School.
In that first season, the Chargers got off to a horrible start, stumbling out of the gate with a 1-3 mark that included a loss to Bullitt Central, the first for the Chargers in a decade. The team was still only 4-5 when they caught fire. The team ran roughshod through the Class 4-A play-offs before beating Calloway County 52-49 in the state semi-finals.
That put the Chargers on the turf at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium for the State Championship game against undefeated Bell County. The Chargers were underdogs that day, but played inspired football and only a missed two-point conversion in the closing seconds kept the game from going into overtime as Bell County eventually won 15-13.
But Bullitt East struggled the past two seasons. The team was only 4-7 a year ago, losing to Fairdale 39-22 in the first-round of the play-offs. It was more frustrating this past season despite a win over Bullitt Central early in the campaign. Then, late in the season, the team lost a district game to LaRue County and missed the play-offs completely for the first time in over a decade.
Even by his own admission, Preston was not a perfect fit for Bullitt East. For the previous 28 years, the football program had been based on the split-back veer offense that was installed by Mike Egan and then conducted by Settles. After the loss to Bullitt Central in 2008, Preston switched to a wishbone attack.
When Preston arrived, he brought with him defensive coordinator David Williams and inherited the rest of the staff from Settles. In less than two years, only one of the former coaches, Darrell Vincent, was still on the staff.
“I’ll try to be diplomatic, but there are just times you don’t feel you are fitting in well,” Preston admitted on Monday. “At some point in time it’s obvious.
“I get along very well with the people at Bullitt East,” the coach added. “But philosophically there were just times where we didn’t see eye-to-eye.”
Preston did chuckle during a phone conversation on Monday when he was asked if perhaps he set the bar too high by reaching the state championship game in his first season in Mount Washington.
“Some old coaches will tell you that you never want to do well that first season,” the coach said. “When you start the way we did you set the bar pretty high.”
The past two seasons the Chargers have also suffered an extremely high number of injuries. That was spotlighted last season when Jesse Bratcher suffered a serious injury that hospitalized the junior with a serious head injury. Bratcher has since returned to school, but it was an emotionally tough time for everyone in the program.
“Injuries are part of the game, but they are just so important,” Preston said. “They take so much out of you. We had so many injuries.
“The good news is that at some point it has to be reversed,” the coach added. “It will be Bullitt East’s time not to have injuries. All of those things will change for the next coach. Then there will be a fantastic season coming up.”
During the three seasons in which Preston was the head coach, Bullitt East remodeled the fieldhouse and did extensive work on the field.
Preston did say that he will not be pushing anyone to fill his spot. The coach did say that whoever takes the helm will find a lot of good football players. Both the Chargers’ freshman and junior-varsity teams reached their conference championship games last season.
Bullitt East will step up into Class 5-A next season and for the first time ever, all three Bullitt County schools will be in the same district for football (along with Shelby County). The Chargers will probably be the favorite to win the district when the season starts next August.
“Whoever steps in there will be stepping into a strong situation,” Preston noted. “There will be 22 seniors and the schedule is very realistic. We were seeing eight or nine wins on the schedule. Having those injuries meant that a lot of younger kids got playing time in the past.
“This is going to be a very strong senior class,” the coach added. “It will be a very good situation for the next coach to step into. I’m just passing the torch to the next coach to carry on.”