Adams resigns as Napa High’s head coach

Askari Adams recently left Napa High School’s football program after serving as defensive coordinator in 2019 and as head coach and defensive coordinator for the past three seasons.

The Grizzlies were 7-4 overall and 4-2 in the Vine Valley Athletic League in 2019 when Adams led the defense under then-head coach Richie Wessman.

Wessman resigned in spring 2020 in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic amid uncertainty about what would happen with the 2020-21 season. Adams took over as interim head coach for the five-game league season that spring and led Napa to a 2-3 record.

The Grizzlies went 1-9 last year and won their season finale against Sonoma Valley to go 1-5 in the VVAL and were 2-8 this year with two wins preseason.

Athletic Director Darci Ward emailed the following statement to the Register last week after being approached for comment:

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“On November 16, 2022, Coach Askari Adams resigned from his position as Napa High School’s varsity head football coach. I would like to thank Coach Adams for his contributions to the Napa High School football program. He stepped in as an interim head coach in the midst of COVID and continued to lead that program to provide stability at a time of tremendous uncertainty. We are grateful for all of Coach Adam’s contributions to our program.

“Effective immediately, Napa High School will conduct a comprehensive recruitment process that includes input from our student-athletes, families and staff.”

Adams said he hopes the school finds the right head coach.

“I and the administration saw that the program was going in different directions,” he said. “My plan is to stay here (at Napa High) and continue teaching. Depending on whether I decide to coach again next year, I will go to the school I coach at (to also teach).”

Adams grew up in Pennsylvania and played football at Cumberland Valley High near Harrisburg before playing for Penn State Safety. In 2000, he graduated with a degree in kinesiology and tried acting professionally. He tried out for the Buffalo Bills and made it to the final cuts before being fired. He tried out for the XFL’s New York/New Jersey Hitmen but left of his own volition. He then tried for the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League but was cut. He considered trying for the Arena Football League but then decided to work as a coach instead.

His career began as a defensive position coach at two NCAA Division II colleges in Pennsylvania. He then coached at eight high schools — one in Maryland, two in Florida, one in his native New Jersey, one in Pennsylvania, two more in Florida — one of which made him his first-time head coach — before coaching in Denver for 2 years .

Adams was moved by the large turnout of football players who showed up to hear him announce his retirement.

“The kids worked their ass off,” he said. “They were eager to learn and I thought they were getting better every year. I will miss being around her. Hopefully, whoever they bring in, the community will welcome them like they did mine.

“I may not move out of the community, but the kids and the friendships I’ve made and the way this community has accepted me have been amazing.”

He was asked what the biggest challenge had been in the four years with the program.

“I don’t know if it was a challenge, but we had to bring the excitement back into the program,” he said. “It’s happened every year since I took over. We had more children every year. This year we had teams on all three levels for the first time (for the first time since 2017 including freshmen). When I came here we had less than 50 children in the entire program and this year it was 80.

“It’s like I told everyone when I got the job: It’s not going to happen overnight. It might not happen in two or three years or four years. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. The first part is getting kids (who are coming) out and we’ve done that on all three levels. We also went from seven coaches to 15 coaches. The program became known. There were a lot of things I didn’t like about it, but there were also a lot of things I liked.”

Adams said he and his staff didn’t need to motivate this year’s team, who played with passion and were always trying to make plays whether the game was tight or not.

“That’s one of the things you can say about the growth of a program when you have kids like that,” Adams said. “You watch the Rodriguez game (a 53-0 loss at Fairfield). We had a running clock and our kids played their butts and never stopped. When you get to that point, you start playing all four quarters instead of two (hard). But we had a bunch of young kids in some key spots, some of them first-year players, and they were going to get it eventually.

“It hurts not being able to watch their growth next year. They are definitely on the way up as a program.”