It remains the most baffling high school football firing. It happened in January 2016. Dean Herrington had guided Mission Hills Alemany to seven league titles in 10 years and two Division 1 semifinal appearances. Then he was sent packing.
He still doesn’t know why Alemany’s principal, David Chambers, made the coaching change.
“He told my booster president that I had plateaued,” Herrington said.
He was quickly hired by Lancaster Paraclete. The Spirits won a Southern Section Division 6 title last season and a state bowl game championship. And they’re even better this season.
On Friday night in the Gold Coast League championship game, Paraclete (9-1) received touchdown receptions of 80, 26 and 16 yards from USC commit Andre Hunt, plus a smothering defensive performance, to knock off Chatsworth Sierra Canyon 26-7 at Antelope Valley College.
Quarterback Brevin White, who played for Herrington in his final season at Alemany before transferring to West Hills Chaminade and then reuniting this season, used his experience and good judgment to burn the Trailblazers (8-2) with his running and passing. He was 10 of 18 passing for 222 yards and ran for 63 yards.
Everything changed for Sierra Canyon with 3:47 left in the second quarter of a scoreless game when standout receiver-defensive back Corey Jones suffered a hip injury. Jones fell to the ground untouched after making a three-yard reception. He was helped off the field and never returned.
Knowing that Jones was out, Paraclete immediately attacked. White completed an 80-yard strike to Hunt for a 7-0 halftime lead. The Trailblazers never recovered.
“I knew he was going out and it was a big loss,” White said.
Said Herrington: “Corey Jones is a heck of a player.”
The Spirits’ defense kept mixing up its blitzes, and freshman quarterback Chayden Peery was sacked four times in the first half, including consecutive sacks by Hunt and Jayson Haywood.
“They had some intricate blitzes and we didn’t do a good job picking it up,” Sierra Canyon coach Jon Ellinghouse said.
The weather conditions certainly didn’t hurt Paraclete. Right on schedule, chilly weather came to Lancaster. Two of the Spirits’ biggest victories last season came in December in freezing weather. The temperature was “only” in the 50s, which brought out ski caps and blankets among fans, but the Spirits thrive in football weather.
Paraclete’s defense received an interception from Elijah Gates and strong line play from Dajour Dixon.
Just how good a football coach is Herrington? In 2013 at Alemany, his team defeated Narbonne 42-14 and Corona Centennial 45-28 in consecutive games.
“It wasn’t fair what happened at Alemany, but it’s over with,” Herrington said. “We have great kids here and that’s a great team we beat.”
Paraclete Athletic Director Margaret Neill said she’s just glad Herrington became available.
“We couldn’t be happier,” she said.