Josh Craig said he fulfilled a childhood dream when he coached Silverton to the 5A football title last season.
Now Craig, who went 41-11 in five seasons with the Foxes, has resigned as coach. The 2009 Silverton graduate said he has decided to step away from coaching “for a little while” to devote more time to his young family.
“My wife gave birth to our second daughter, and now we have a 19-month-old and a newborn,” Craig said. “When I got the job five years ago, my wife and I made an agreement that I would coach for five y ears and re-evaluate where we were at.
“Fast forward to now, and I feel like I need to be able to spend more time at home helping her with the girls while they're still very young.”
Craig returned to Silverton as a teacher and coach in 2014 after graduating from Oregon State. He joined the coaching staff under John Mannion and helped the Foxes reach the 5A final in 2014.
When Mannion left to start the program at 6A Mountainside in 2017, Craig was hired as coach. The Foxes made the quarterfinals in his first two seasons and reached the semifinals in 2019. Last season, Silverton won its first state title since 1991 by beating two-time reigning champion Thurston 26-20 in the final.
The Foxes will lose 25 seniors from that team, including standouts at quarterback in Jordan McCarty and receiver in Vandon Fessler and Austin Ratliff. The program is strong, though, considering the freshman team went undefeated and the JV lost only to 6A Central Catholic.
“This is the hardest decision I've ever made, and I already miss coaching,” Craig said. “But it's hard to choose anything over family when push comes to shove. This job requires a ton of focus and commitment, and I don't think I can give it the time it, and the players, deserve while also being present enough as a father.
“This isn't meant to be permanent, and I intend to come back to coaching when the girls are a little older.”
Robinson out at Churchill
A.J. Robinson, whose six-year run at Churchill included a 5A runner-up finish in 2017, has stepped down as the Lancers' coach.
“It's been a challenging couple years with COVID and all the demands that came with that,” Robinson said. “As the pandemic continues on, I just thought it was important for me to take care of my physical and mental health, and just make me and my family more of a priority.”
Robinson, 33, assisted at West Albany (2011-14) and Oregon City (2015) before taking over at Churchill in 2016. He compiled a 36-21 record with the Lancers, including 12-1 in 2017 and 9-2 in 2018. The 12-win season was Churchill's most wins since 1985.
Last season, the team went 5-5 and lost in the first round of the playoffs.
“It was a really hard decision,” Robinson said. “It's something that I've thought about for a while. It's hard to disconnect from a community that's been such a big part of my life. I've had some really great experiences here in the last six years.”
Robinson said he thought it was important to make the decision now.
“Churchill has a really good group of kids coming up,” he said. “I knew there was going to be a chance that I wouldn't be here, so I wanted to give them a fighting chance to put together a good season for next year and not leave the decision to the last minute.”
Robinson said he plans to continue teaching at Churchill.
“I don't think coaching is completely out of my future,” he said. “It's something that I love. I expect to be involved, still, doing quarterback training.
“I know the demands of being a head coach, and after a couple challenging years, I just don't have that to give right now.”
Musser moves on
Grants Pass also will have a shakeup at the top. John Musser – who spent 24 seasons in the program, the last 14 as head coach – resigned in the days after the season.
Musser went 73-68 with the Cavemen, including a Southwest Conference title and quarterfinal appearance in 2014. They finished 1-8 last season, their fewest wins since 1977.
“I had always prayed for clarity, that when it's time for me to step down from doing this, I had hoped I wouldn't be one of those people that stayed at the party too long,” said Musser, a 1991 Henley graduate. “And I had crystal clear clarity about Week 2 or 3.”
Musser said the responsibilities of the job had changed to the point that it affected the team's core processes.
“They're just not what they used to be, quite honestly, because of COVID, because of the wildfires, because of all those types of factors,” Musser said. “Not only is my level of enjoyment not as much, but my effectiveness isn't as much as it was.
“A lot of that kind of stuff, we were a little hamstrung on. It kind of signaled it's time for somebody else to put their fingerprints on this thing.”
Musser said he could see himself as an assistant in the future, but not as a head coach.
“If I was a betting man, I would not think I'd be a head coach again anywhere,” he said. “I still really love football. The chance to coach football has gotten less and less these last handful of years, with so many checklists to fill out and temperatures to take, and this and that.”
Musser's two sons and daughter graduated from Grants Pass. His sons, Jonah and Jeret, followed in his footsteps to play at Southern Oregon University and joined the Grants Pass staff as assistant coaches.
“They very much still want to be a part of Caveman football with the next guy, whoever that is, if that fits,” Musser said. “Neither of them want to be the head coach, but they both very much enjoy coaching football here.”