On the same day Wally Grant wed and coached Costa Mesa High in the Battle for the Bell football game, Principal Phil D'Agostino told Grant he was no longer the interim coach.
"Maybe I made him too nervous," D'Agostino joked as the Mustangs went on to lose to Estancia, 28-14, in the regular-season finale, which decided the city championship and Orange Coast League title on Nov. 11.
"We knew going into the Battle of the Bell game that regardless of what happened, Wally was going to be our guy. We've been extremely pleased with the work he did this season."
Grant, in his head coaching debut on the varsity level, led his alma mater to its first 8-3 season in nine years.
Just as in 2002, Costa Mesa lost in the opening round of the CIF Southern Section playoffs. Costa Mesa fell to Los Amigos, 38-7, in the Southern Division first round.
The Mustangs returned to the postseason after missing it in 2010. D'Agostino said Grant's work ethic and the staff he assembled impressed him.
"From the moment he took the job, he put his whole self into it. He was there for hours on end," D'Agostino said. "Now, he's working with us twice a week doing tutoring, and making sure not just football players, but a lot of kids at Costa Mesa High School are working with him as he works as a part-time tutor for us. The guy cares about kids on a level that goes beyond the field. When I saw that kind of commitment from him and the way he reached out to other coaches, the way he's brought in coaches [like Kent Paul and John Carney] from those glory days of Costa Mesa's past. Having [assistant] coach [and former NFL player Nick] Bell on campus also has been a great inspiration. I know that Wally knows what it takes to build a solid program."
D'Agostino said Grant is close to earning his teaching credential. He added that it's a high priority to have an on-campus football coach at Costa Mesa.