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Produced by Almaden Valley Rotary Club

*** BENNY PIERCE ***

Article in 1995 Football Program by Dick Sparrer

It's still the same old story, a fight for love and glory, a case of do or die. . .as time goes by.
It's a Friday night in autumn. Darkness swallows up the small community of Los Gatos, adding just a gentle bite to the September evening air. The lone beacon in the town's darkness is the glow coming from the lights hovering high above Helm Field. The familiarity of the scene is unmistakable. It's a piece of Americana. . .it's a high school game.

The fundamental things apply, as time goes by.
On this particular Friday, it's Saratoga's turn to play a home game on the field it shares with Los Gatos High. The spiked shoes of dozens of scarlet-clad Falcons clatter on the asphalt as the players, well schooled in the fundamentals of the game throughout the week, follow a single figure across the parking lot and through the gates leading to the arena.

Their leader is Benny Pierce, and the Falcons follow him into battle, just as every other Saratoga varsity football team has for 358 high school games in 33 seasons. And he and his wife of 39 years, Mignon, have decided to see what the future will bring without football. Benny Pierce, the only head varsity football coach Saratoga High School has ever known and the man who served as one of the head coaches in the first Santa Clara County All Star Football in 1974, has retired from the game.

But Pierce returns for one shining moment in the football spotlight tonight. He's been selected as the Head Coach for the North team in the 21st Annual Charlie Wedemeyer All Star Football Game. It's a fitting honor for the man who led the Falcons to 31 winning seasons, 16 league championships, a county title, and four Central Coast Section crowns.

"It was a difficult decision," Pierce said of his retirement. "Coaching football is something I've enjoyed through the years. It was a very difficult decision." "But a lot of things really came into play," he added. "we had a good year and we had a good group of kids. And I wanted to go out on a positive note." It couldn't have been more positive for Pierce. The Falcons gave him a championship in the El Camino Division of the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League as a going-away gift. It was the 16th title in his impressive career. It won't be easy to replace a coaching legend. And make no mistake about it, Benny Pierce is a living legend in high school football in the Santa Clara Valley. His record of 270-84-4 speaks for itself. Recording such an impressive record didn't come easy.

"I make it a full-time job," he said. "I've always put a lot of time and energy into it. I guess it could be done with less, but I couldn't do it with less." Long-time friends, Myron Zaccheo, the Pioneer head football coach, and Chuck Maraldo, the veteran head coach at Leigh, understand exactly what he means.

"I know he's a real competitor," said Maraldo, who will coach alongside Pierce in tonight's All Star Game. "And he has the unique ability to coach his kids to be the same way. And his teams have always been known for their perfection when it comes to execution. He has a good football mind, and he has the ability to coach the kids to execute."

"He's very dependable," Zaccheo added, "and he expects that from his players, whether they're lifting weights or practicing. If you don't demand anything, you don't get anything. He's just very disciplined on the inside."

Maraldo coaches against Pierce for many years in the old West Valley Athletic League after taking over as the head coach of Branham when the school opened in 1967. And he remembers every confrontation with Pierce's Falcons as a challenge. "You always felt the pressure," he said. "You knew you couldn't make a mistake because they wouldn't. He would always find a way to beat you. It's just that competitiveness." "Competitive? I think I am," Pierce admitted. "I accept losing, but you play to win."

Maraldo also admires Pierce's loyalty and dependability. And the Leigh coach believes it was those very characteristics that kept Pierce at the high school level throughout his career. "I know he had opportunities (to coach at the college level)," Maraldo said., "but I think Benny is a very loyal person. He has roots there in Los Gatos. He felt loyal to Saratoga High School, his home and his family. And I think he was just fond of coaching high school football." "It was flattering at times to be offered opportunities," Pierce admitted. "But I enjoyed high school and enjoyed the community."

So college football's loss was Saratoga's gain. And now Pierce will get the chance to spend more time with his family, and do some things he never had time for before. The Pierces will vacation in Missouri early this summer, then have an August trip to Ireland planned. August has always been a month of football preparation - never a time for a Pierce Family Vacation. For the first time in four and half decades, Benny Pierce won't spend the last summer and early fall preparing for a football season. Still, he's comfortable with his decision...

No matter what the future brings, as time goes by.