BATTLE GROUND — In seven seasons as coach at Battle Ground High School, Larry Peck guided the Tigers from the depths of the Class 4A Greater St. Helens League to near the top. This week, Peck announced his intention to turn the Battle Ground program over to a new coach while considering other opportunities for himself.
“Last spring, I was kind of thinking I would make this my last year and go out with this great group we’ve had,’’ said Peck, who led the Tigers to a combined 15 wins in his last two seasons as head coach of the Battle Ground program. “I felt a compulsion to change some things up and I thought this would a good time to do that. The program will be fine. There’s all kinds of structures in place and there are plenty of good kids in the program.’’
Peck, who commutes from his home in Longview to teach and coach at Battle Ground High School, took over a team in 2010 that struggled to win one non-league game against a smaller school.
“It took us two overtimes to beat a winless Woodland team in that first year,’’ Peck recalled.
After that, Peck and his ever-improving Tigers just kept getting better and better. Battle Ground started with wins over GSHL foes Evergreen and Heritage during Peck’s early years as the coach kept pointing to the need to take the next step to break the stranglehold Camas, Union and Skyview had on what is considered to be one of the toughest Class 4A football leagues in the state of Washington.
Finally, those breakthrough wins came in the last two years. In 2015, Battle Ground finished tied for second in the GSHL, won a state play-in game (the school’s first-ever postseason victory) and the Tigers participated in the 16-team state playoffs for the first time since 1979. They finished the 2015 season with an 8-3 overall record.
“That’s the biggest hurdle the new guy will face,’’ Peck said. “It’s the toughest league in the state.’’
This past season, Battle Ground finished 7-2, losing to league and state champion Camas and also to Skyview, which advanced to the state semifinals.
“Nobody forced me out that’s for sure, so it’s really not a very big story,’’ Peck joked. “It comes down to the need for change in my life. I have about 10 years left before I retire. I may coach next year, I may not.
“I’m extremely proud of what we accomplished here,’’ Peck said. “I will miss the kids.’’
For now, Peck will continue to teach at Battle Ground High School, unless he finds another opportunity to lure him away.
“I still plan on teaching at Battle Ground, at least for the foreseeable future,’’ Peck said. “I will look around the state. My wife and I are at the point where we can look around if we want to. But, I love teaching at Battle Ground High School. I love the kids. The athletic director and the administration are all very supportive. They understand the role that the football program filled around here.’’
Peck said one of the most fulfilling aspects of his time and success at Battle Ground was that the football program was very much fueled by the community.
“I can’t reiterate how proud I am of the group of guys who helped me coach,’’ Peck said. “All of those guys were either came from the community, or they played at Battle Ground. I was the only outsider and then I brought my son to coach with us. It’s a pretty proud time for us. I have a lot to be thankful for. I’m honored they gave me the chance to coach.’’