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Kelsey Pickering Named Edwardsville Football Coach

EDWARDSVILLE – Kelsey Pickering has spent the past 23 high school football seasons as an assistant coach.

Now, the 44-year-old Pickering will get his first opportunity as head coach.

Pickering was approved as the Edwardsville High School football coach at Monday’s school board meeting. He replaces Matt Martin, who stepped down on February 15 after guiding the Tigers to a 100-39 record with 11 postseason appearances and three Southwestern Conference championships in 13 seasons. After Martin stepped down, Pickering served as the co-interim head coach with Justin Winslow.

“When you start coaching, it’s always a dream and goal to be in this position,” Pickering said. “I love Tiger Football. I don’t think there is a better place for me to have my first head coaching job.”

A native of Olathe, Kansas, Pickering is the 22nd coach in program history dating back to 1913. He is just the sixth since 1972.

Pickering has spent the past 15 seasons in Edwardsville as the defensive coordinator and associate head coach.

“It has just felt right here,” Pickering said. “What has really made this place home are the coaches, administration and school board. If you look at the coaching staff, we don’t have turnover. Our coaching staff and the guys there make this where I want to be. I know what we have here with our assistant coaches. I don’t make Tiger Football. It’s the assistant coaches, the administration, the school board and all of the people involved. That’s why Edwardsville is a special place.”

Pickering was hired by EHS in 2008 as a physical education teacher after following Mark Bliss from Odessa, Missouri. Bliss was named coach following Tim Dougherty’s exit from the program following a 132-40 record in 16 seasons.

When Bliss stepped down as head coach in Week 2 of the 2010 season, Pickering stayed on the Edwardsville coaching staff with Martin taking over.

“I’ve been blessed with what Matt allowed me to do here and I didn’t feel the need to go outside the district,” Pickering said. “Matt has been a huge influence on my coaching with how to run a program. He has allowed me to do a lot of things over the years that have helped prepare me for a job like this.”

The start of Pickering’s coaching career began at Pioneer Trail Middle School in Olathe, Kansas, before he moved onto the high school level.

Pickering was the co-defensive coordinator at Maryville High School (Missouri) from 2000-04 while getting his Master of Science in Health and Physical Education from Northwest Missouri State University. He was then the defensive coordinator at Poinciana High School (Florida) from 2004-06 before joining Bliss’ coaching staff in Odessa from 2006-08.

“I’ve had a lot of great mentors and coaches I’ve been able to work for over the years. They really planted the seed in me that coaching was something I wanted to do,” Pickering said. “It’s interesting to see the similarities and differences and how different programs work. It depends on the kids, the coaches and the district.

“Every head coach I have worked for has taught me something. As an assistant, no matter what job you’re in, you are always evaluating. I had a head coach tell me one time to take the good and bad from each head coach and make sure to remember both because then you’ll know what you want to do when it’s your program. That was a big piece of advice.”

Since 2008 under Pickering, the Tigers have led the SWC in fewest points allowed three times, including 8.2 points during the 2015 season. It has finished in the top three nine times.

Pickering has coached four players at EHS that went on to play in the NFL, including current Buffalo Bills defensive end AJ Epenesa, current Jacksonville Jaguars kicker Riley Patterson, current New York Jets defensive back Craig James and former New England Patriots defensive lineman Vincent Valentine.

Edwardsville finished 7-4 last season and advanced to the second round of the Class 8A postseason after a 43-36 win over SWC rival O’Fallon in the first round. It was the program’s first postseason win since a 44-17 victory over St. Charles East in the 2019 first round and first on the road since a 44-27 win over Evanston in the 2018 first round.

It was the program’s 27th postseason appearance and 11th straight. EHS, which finished second in Class 7A in 2001 and 2002, was a semifinalist in 2017 (8A), 2013 (7A) and 2005 (7A) and a quarterfinalist in 2018 (8A), 2016 (8A), 2012 (7A) and 1995 (5A).

“Edwardsville is a very good program year in and year out. Edwardsville football has been Edwardsville football long before I got here and it will continue to be after I am gone. There is a standard and I think the kids get that,” Pickering said. “Any time you are walking into a program that has had success, it is a huge responsibility to keep what has been built before me and before I got here.

“The goal here is to get the first state championship. We have had great teams and we have been close. We are really close and we just have to find that next step to get over the hump.”

EHS is expected to return a strong junior core of quarterback Jake Curry, wide receiver Kellen Brfnfre, wide receiver Joey DeMare, linebacker Dalton Brown, defensive lineman Wyatt Kolnsberg and linebacker Jaiden Vonner, among others, and sophomore defensive end Iose Epenesa.

Pickering will meet with the players Tuesday and start working on finalizing the coaching staff.

The Tigers are currently doing offseason weights three times each week until the end of the school year. The first day of summer practice is June 5.

The 2023 season opener is scheduled for Aug. 25 against Jackson (Missouri) inside the District 7 Sports Complex.

The season opener will be a long time coming for Pickering. He also hopes that day will be a Homecoming for many others.

“We are going to try and integrate the alumni back. We want to make that a focal point for the program. Edwardsville football has a rich tradition,” Pickering said. “We want to bring back Edwardsville football players and make them always feel welcomed and be around the program.”

Pickering graduated from MidAmerica Nazarene University with a Bachelor of Science in Health and Physical Education. He played one season of football at MidAmerica Nazarene University.

Pickering has one son, who will be a sophomore at Edwardsville this fall.

Source : The Intelligencer