Beau Lehnerz had already settled down in his dream destination and was willing to wait for his dream job. On Thursday, his wait ended.
After 10 years as an assistant football coach in Ashland, the last two as its defensive coordinator, Lehnerz has been named the program’s next head football coach. The announcement came Thursday after he and former head coach Charlie Hall met with players to break the news.
Hall was hired as Southern Oregon University’s head football coach March 10.
A Grants Pass native who played college football for Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Lehnerz, 41, takes over a program that’s gone 94-44 since Hall took over in 2005, a run that included four conference titles, six state quarterfinal appearances and a berth in the 2015 Class 5A state championship game.
Lehnerz was on the sideline through most of that success, joining the staff as the outside linebackers/tight ends coach and assistant special teams coordinator in 2007.
“When it was official and I was shaking hands, it started to sink in that it’s real,” said Lehnerz, who spent two seasons overseas as a professional player-coach after graduating from college before moving back to the U.S. to become an assistant high school coach in Arizona. “It’s kind of a dream come true really, especially with the program that Ashland is. And it’s still kind of hitting me.”
Adhering to district policy, the job was offered to qualified district employees first, and after the entire coaching staff — one of the most experienced staffs in the state — met with athletic director Karl Kemper to tell him Lehnerz was ready for the promotion, Kemper decided a more broad search was unnecessary.
Lehnerz will take over Hall’s physical education and social studies teaching position at the high school after teaching seventh-eighth grade social studies at Ashland Middle School the past four years.
“We’ve got a good thing going, and if it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” Kemper said. “Beau wanted to do the job, the entire staff was in support of him doing it and he got a very strong endorsement from Charlie Hall, who thought (Lehnerz) was the guy to carry on some of the unique and special traditions of our program. We just felt like we had a strong enough guy in place, so why would we look anywhere else?”
The coaching staff is expected to remain largely intact. Scott Chadick has been with the team for 28 years, Tito Soriano 22 years and Antione Perry 14 years.
“I just think that we have something special with our program,” Kemper said. “We’re regularly highly competitive and we’ve had coaches who have coached young men as people first and athletes second, and Beau shares those values and that’s the first thing he talked about today when he met with the kids.”
The announcement represents the most significant move in what has been a long journey for Lehnerz.
His heart drawn to small-town life, Lehnerz said he and his wife were hoping to move back to the Rogue Valley eventually and after a two-year coaching stint in Scottsdale, Arizona, he did exactly that, jumping on a job opportunity that opened up in town. The Lehnerz’s quickly fell in love with Ashland and decided to make a permanent home here.
Lehnerz said he quickly bonded with the staff, including longtime assistant coach Dave Kitchell, who died only a few months after Lehnerz arrived following a long battle with cancer.
“I got to work under (Kitchell) for that short amount of time but it just felt like I knew the guy forever,” Lehnerz said. “So I was just in an ideal spot and of course, my ultimate goal would be to be a head coach, but I was learning the process and the guys that I’ve worked with I loved. I knew that my time would come sometime, but I wasn’t looking really necessarily outside of Ashland because I loved the situation I was in and the guys that I worked with.
“If an opportunity were to arise, like it did, this is where I wanted to be. I don’t have any desire to go anywhere else and I want to carry on the tradition of the program that’s been installed by coach (Jim) Nagel and carried on with coach Hall.”
Joe Zavala is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at 541-821-0829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @Joe_Zavala99.