"... I want our kids to be happy and
I want them to enjoy their four years of
high school football." - Corey Cole
Photo by Dayna Olton
When Matt Dollar announced his decision to step down as head football coach of the Fillmore Flashes it didn’t take long for the anxiety and anticipation to start building across the small Ventura County town as everyone began to wonder who the next football coach would be.
With not one but two youth football programs the Fillmore Bears (PYFL) and the Fillmore Raiders (GCYFL) have planted the seeds that have produced some of the best football talent that Ventura County has ever seen. Win or lose Fillmore kids have a reputation for playing fast and hitting hard and opponents know that they will feel it the morning after playing a Fillmore team at any level. Residents have known for some time that while some of the best talent has been grown locally by their youth programs some of these talented kids have ended up flourishing in other high school football programs such as nearby Moorpark or St. Bonaventure. Small town kids that end up doing well playing “big-time ball” is a local frustration for those left at home. Compounding the pressure was that the passionate Fillmore football community was hoping that the high school administration would find someone that could help retain their talent and at the same time invigorate a football program that would do their youth programs justice.
On March 16th, 2017, Fillmore High School made the decision to put the football program back into the hands of someone that has done nothing less than guide Fillmore teams since he was 7 years old. That someone is Corey Cole.
At 24 years old Cole became the youngest head coach in Fillmore High School History. While Cole is short on high school coaching experience, he will draw from his 13 seasons of on field experience. Few have played the game for as long as he has. 7 years as a youth stand out quarterback for the Fillmore Raiders. Another 4 using his skills that led the Flashes to a Frontier League Title, became League MVP, and earned All-County, and All-CIF honors. His efforts were also good enough to earn him a scholarship to Concordia University (St. Paul, MN) where he spent the first two seasons as a wide receiver and then became the Golden Bear’s Starting Quarterback at the start of his Junior season. 13 seasons of on field experience, it was at this point that his playing days came to an end and his coaching career re-ignited.
Cole’s coaching career began in high school when he served as an assistant coach to longtime Fillmore youth coach, Greg Nunez. For the 4 seasons that he played for the Flashes, Cole would wrap up his practices and then coach Fillmore’s 8 and 9 year old football players. Players that ironically will now be spearheading the Flashes this season. But it wasn’t until the week 2 of his Junior year in college that Cole started putting his experience to use at a higher level. Sidelined by a foot injury, Concordia Offensive Coordinator, Mike Shafer tapped his injured QB to help assist him. “He spent the rest of that season up in the booth spotting for both offense and defense, and his after he was injured his Senior year, he helped groom our new quarterbacks to learn the offense which was both up in the booth and on the sidelines”, said Shafer. Shafer was elated when hearing the news about his former player, “I’m so happy for him, Corey understands the game on both sides and has the ability to make decisions and adjustments on the fly. Those kids are going to love playing for him, he will raise their level of play.” Cole wrapped up his college career on the sidelines as injuries limited him to just three games in his final two seasons. After leaving Concordia with his B.S. degree in Physical Education, Cole returned to his hometown and began coaching on the JV staff this past season as the team’s Defensive Coordinator, the team went 9-1. Little did he know that just one season later he would step out of Fillmore’s football past and be tasked with building it’s future.
Cole credits his college experience for showing him what passion for the game was and he’s elated about the opportunity at Fillmore. “It’s always been a goal of mine to be the head coach at Fillmore”, said Cole. “What people don’t realize is the amount of heart that the kids have here, how much they want to succeed.” Cole is already hard at work putting his plans together for Spring workouts. His priorities include putting an emphasis on school pride and passion and changing the culture, “No disrespect to anyone but I’ve felt that the last couple of years that there was a negative feel within the community and players and the kids didn’t seem happy, like they weren’t enjoying the game, I want our kids to be happy and I want them to enjoy their four years of high school football.”
Cole credits his older brother Curtis for driving him to coach. “My Brother came back and coached me at the youth level after he graduated from high school.” Curtis Cole who now teaches and coaches football and track at Lone Grove High School (Oklahoma) was a standout lineman for the Flashes earning Frontier league Lineman of the Year in 2005, he also starred at Ventura College and finally Concordia University where he played alongside his brother for one season. “Curtis has been one of the greatest influences for me, the example that he was as a player and a coach has been huge, I saw how he handled himself and worked hard to make it to college, his impact on me was huge.”
Cole will spend the coming weeks and months putting his staff in place, and will begin inputting his offensive and defensive schemes this Spring. Not wanting to tip his hand too much he does plan on running more of a modern spread offense rather than Fillmore’s traditional Wing-T offense. Once his house is in order Cole will then turn to the youth programs and sees them as a key part to their long term success, “Youth football is everything to our program, they are the future, we only have one high school and both programs (Bears, Raiders) have done a great job, the kids come into Fillmore High very football savvy.” Cole plans to help retain Fillmore talent, and did cringe a bit when asked if having two programs is a good thing. Not wanting to offend either he reluctantly replied, “It’s an uncomfortable situation, It’s not about Raiders or Bears football, it’s about Fillmore Football, and I think that having two programs divides the talent.” Cole expressed that his best memories were spent playing alongside his friends,“Playing with my friends and enjoying the game with the kids I grew up with is what I remember most.”
Via press release Fillmore High School Principal, Tom Ito stated, “Corey is the right man at the right time to lead us forward and I am confident that his values are our values and that his teams and student-athletes will make Fillmore proud, on and off the field.” While Cole may be short on years in the booth he’s definitely long on football experience. He has experienced the highest of highs, from youth football standout to leading his team to a League Championship, and League MVP, to becoming a collegiate Starting Quarterback and Team Captain to injured Player-Coach. Cole also brings with him a quiet confidence and youthful enthusiasm as he takes the reins of his hometown team. He wants his players to be happy, and prideful. He wants them to compete a high level. He wants them to hit hard and be nothing more than what a Fillmore Flashes Football player should be.