Mustangs have Grant in aid

Costa Mesa Football Preview

Philosophy of Costa Mesa first-year head coach forged by winning heritage with alma mater.

August 31, 2011|By Barry Faulkner,
(Daily Pilot File…)

Wally Grant played at Costa Mesa High in the 1980s and was the Mustangs' defensive coordinator last season. But the blueprint he will use to try to succeed in his first season at the Mustangs' head coach was drawn up in the 1990s by then-coach Myron Miller.

Grant was an assistant coach with Miller during a watershed three-season run that included a trip to the CIF Southern Section Division VIII title game in 1993.

Grant then accompanied Miller to Tustin, where they continued Miller's tradition of smashmouth double-wing offense and the physical imposition of his team's will that sometimes led to lopsided scores and almost always led to appearances in the postseason.

Costa Mesa, led the last five seasons by Jeremy Osso (now an assistant at University High), has been to the playoffs three of the last four seasons, including an outright league crown in 2008 and a co-championship in 2007.


But Osso's three first-round CIF playoff losses ran Mesa's first-round playoff record to 0-7 since its last first-round win in 1997. And the Mustangs are 7-27 outside of Orange Coast League play since joining arguably the least imposing Orange County league in 2006.

"Coming back here has been the perfect storm," said Grant, who noted that being on staff last season has helped the transition to his first head-coaching assignment. "When I was playing here and coaching here with Coach Miller, we were a small fish in a larger pond. When I was playing, we were in the same league with El Toro, and Saddleback had 4,000 kids. We were half their enrollment. And when I was coaching here before, we were in the Pacific Coast League that included Laguna Hills and Trabuco Hills, which meant we were, realistically, competing for third place. It was not a level playing field.

"Now [in the Orange Coast League], we should be competing for a league championship year-in and year-out."

Grant has been deemed "interim coach," and his future will be evaluated based on this season, Principal Phil D'Agostino has said.

Mesa went 3-7, 2-3 in league last year, but optimism for this season is fueled by more than its cozy league placement.

Senior quarterback Nathan Alvis returns with a veteran receiving corps and three returning starters on the offensive line. Further, there are a handful of new faces who figure to make a major impact, particularly since Grant plans a virtual two-way starting lineup that will most often have his best 11 players on the field.

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