Ascher looks Sharpe at corner

Conner Ascher first wanted to play quarterback at Sage Hill School when he made the jump to varsity last season. In the way, three hurdles.

The first issue was Ascher's size. At 5-foot-8, 120 pounds back then, one hit and he can seriously get hurt in the pocket. He also stood third on the depth chart at quarterback.

The starting quarterback gave Ascher great advice.

"Randall [Mycorn] said I should think about it, just being the backup," said Ascher, who began wondering where he belonged on the football field.

He saw himself more likely on the offensive side.

Ricky Sharpe, the secondary coach, believed otherwise. He told Coach J.R. Tolver why.

"Man, he has to play DB," Sharpe remembers telling Tolver before Ascher's sophomore season. "If he's not starting at quarterback, then I'm going to take him."

Sharpe has taken Ascher under his wing ever since. The two are similar, reserved and quiet.

Sharpe, a former cornerback at San Diego State with a couple of stints on NFL practice squads, talks a little more now because he is a coach. Whatever he says, Ascher listens.

Sharpe has turned an undersized Ascher into a shutdown corner. Ascher has grown an inch and put on 20 pounds. He even has his own real estate on the field.

Sharpe calls it "Ascher Island," like the nickname for the area New York Jets' cornerback Darrelle Revis commands.

Ascher laughs and repeats what Sharpe says. The confidence is there for Ascher in his junior year at Sage Hill, ranked sixth in the CIF Southern Section East Valley Division poll. He and the Lightning (4-0) are off to great starts.

Sharpe said confidence is what a cornerback needs in order to be successful. Having athleticism and quick instincts like those of Ascher helps.

Instead of throwing the ball as a quarterback, Ascher feels at home trying to knock down passes or intercept them. In four games, he has three interceptions, two going for touchdowns.

Ascher has a pick-six in each of Sage Hill's past two games. In last week's 48-8 road victory against Sherman Indian of Riverside, he returned an interception 65 yards for a score. Sharpe said Ascher read the play, jumping the slant before racing to the end zone.

The touchdown celebration might need some work.

"He always seems to do something with his arms. He like flexes them," said Sharpe, who understands why Ascher has not nailed down an end zone dance. "The only thing that's weird is as a DB you don't really plan to score, so having like a celebration is unexpected. You're just really excited and you don't know what to do."

All that matters to Sharpe is that Ascher has learned how to play cornerback at a high level.

The two attribute the development to spending last year and this year with each other and the film sessions studying opponents and Ascher's play. The ability every football player wants was there when Tolver first saw Ascher before his first year in charge last season.

Tolver said what drew him instantly to Ascher was his natural athleticism. Ascher moved fluidly as if he knew the sport.

Football is big in the Ascher household. Ascher's older brother, Stephen, is a senior defensive lineman at Corona del Mar High. They follow each other's teams and success.

Ascher said he has tried to talk Stephen, listed on CdM's roster at 6-2, 225-pounds, into transferring to Sage Hill.

"He thinks it will be easy for him," Ascher said is a reason why Ascher has remained at CdM (3-1), a much larger school that competes in the CIF Southern Section Southern Division.

"We get into arguments about whose team is better."

All Ascher has to say is that his team is undefeated and his brother's is not.

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