East County Sports

Ash wins Chargers’ County Coach of Year

West Hills head coach Casey Ash is honored at SoFi Stadium on Nov. 14, 2021.

2021 EAST COUNTY PREP FOOTBALL

By Nick Pellegrino
ECS staff writer

INGLEWOOD —- West Hills High head football coach Casey Ash, who guided the Wolf Pack to the school’s first-ever undefeated regular season, is among a shortlist of Southland mentors tabbed as Coaches of the Year in high school football by the Los Angeles Chargers.

The NFL club’s community relations officials introduced the winners during last Sunday’s (Nov. 14) home contest against the Minnesota Vikings at SoFi Stadium.

Ash and his coaching staff helped West Hills capture the Grossmont Valley League championship with a perfect 6-0 mark, which followed four additional non-league victories for a perfect 10-0 slate. The Wolf Pack also captured a playoff contest before getting eliminated in the CIF-San Diego Section Division III quarterfinals.

“We inside the program held high expectations, but to achieve what we did — when people on the outside didn’t think we would achieve such success — when you overachieve and do more than what is expected, it doesn’t get better than that. It’s a special experience,” said the coach.

The season started with a romp over Kearny by shutout, then was capped in a dramatic showdown with a victory over El Capitan, a ballclub that was also undefeated in league play. In the postseason, the fifth-seeded Pack downed Bonita Vista, before falling at fourth-seeded Ramona.

“It’s hard to say it was disappointing after losing that last game to Ramona, but it was a good season,” Ash added. “Ramona is a good team. no shame in losing to them.”

All of the honorees, which included El Capitan head coach Ron Burner and Grossmont head coach Chris Holmes (both Chargers’ Coach of the Week honorees), were allowed to bring a guest to the Chargers-Vikings contest, with Ash sharing his moment with his father.

Ash is the second Grossmont District coach to receive the annual award from the Chargers. Burner won in 2014.

“Being chosen as the coach of the year is cool, but I want to make sure that I’m clear there are different entities (with award platforms),” he noted. “The L.A Chargers chose me as the coach of the year and I appreciate that, but CIF coach of the year would be definitely a bigger deal.”

Still, Ash appreciates the honor.

“It’s cool, I received a lot of support from the community,” he explained. “The winner is the coach that received the most votes — from the community, staff at the school, my wife, the booster club — all did a great job getting the word out to vote for me — it was very flattering.

“The L.A. Chargers treated us very well.

“Going undefeated it was not a necessity nor was it the goal for us. However, it was fun to check it off the list. To go undefeated as a coach this season after being one game away from being undefeated as a player meant a lot to me personally however it didn’t register with others probably as much. Going undefeated for me was validation as a player after we lost that one game I looked at it as we failed, so to be able to complete a task that started 25 years ago was very fulfilling.

Ash appreciated the award even more because he is also a bridge to the previous greatest ballclub in West Hills history.

Earlier in his playing/coaching career, Ash, a West Hills alum, played for a Wolf Pack squad carrying a 9-0 record into the 1995 regular-season finale.

“The difference between this team and my team I played on in 1995, both were senior-heavy, but had some key underclassmen, like this year,” Ash recalled. “We had Collin Dill and Diego (Calderon), and on my team in ’95.  We also had a sophomore, Adam Clark, who was a starting middle linebacker, and Tyler Roger was an underclassman who ended up being a big-time receiver for us.”

“Both teams were very close. The ’95 team I was on and this team, shared similar values of being tight and caring a lot for each other. The difference between the teams, this group of kids had success throughout their four years, (while) my team came along slowly but surely. We were 4-6 my sophomore year, 6-4 as juniors, and, of course, 9-1 (in the regular season) as seniors.”

“These kids this year were more used to winning.”

Burner was the last East County coach to post a perfect regular-season record in 2014, eventually going 14-1 and earning a berth in the CIF Division II state championship contest.

Additional thoughts from Ash:

“I was very impressed with how the Chargers organization treated us. They brought all of the coaches onto the field from San Diego County, Orange County, and L.A. County.

They gave us parking passes and two tickets each to the game. They brought all of us on the field to be recognized before the game started, put our names up on the scoreboard and announced.

Let me tell you the stadium in itself is quite impressive. Interestingly staff members from the school and even some students that happen to be at the game had no clue that I was even going to be recognized and be there for such an event, So that was also equally as uplifting as they recognize me really tells you it’s such a small world we live in.

I brought my father (Rick, a former coach at Helix and West Hills) with me and we got to experience all the amenities of SoFi Stadium together for the first time. That was a memory and a happy time to have him there with me.

We have been very blessed and I am feeling very grateful this Thanksgiving. This team of seniors especially I will never forget, And the underclassmen as well that helped us get to where we had never gotten before.”

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