Football

Joe Wood, who coached Aliso Niguel High to a CIF-SS football title, dies at 71 – Orange County Register

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San Clemente High football assistant coach Joe Wood, who was the head coach at Aliso Niguel when it won a CIF championship, died Friday night.

He was 71.

Wood had been in critical condition for a month at Mission Hospital, where he was being treated for COVID-19.

He is survived by his wife, Cheryl, and four daughters.

A GoFundMe.com page has been established to assist with medical expenses.

He was Aliso Niguel’s first varsity football head coach. The Wolverines won the CIF Southern Section Division VIII championship in 1996 to finish a 14-0 season with the school’s first senior class. They beat Pacifica of Garden Grove 32-21 in the Division VIII final; the 12-point margin was the smallest of their four playoff games.

In 10 of those 14 wins in ’96, the Wolverines held the opposition to single-digit scoring.

During Wood’s tenure on the San Clemente coaching staff, the Tritons played in three consecutive CIF-SS finals, 2014-16, including their championship win in ’16 that featured quarterback Sam Darnold, who would go on to play at USC and in the NFL.

Wood previously was an assistant coach at Capistrano Valley High School, Utah State and the University of Oregon, where he had played defensive back.

Wood coached Aliso Niguel from the 1993 season through the 2005 season. His replacement after the ’05 season was Jeff Veeder, who was an Aliso assistant coach.

Veeder remembers Wood as a high-energy coach.

“You could always count on Joe to yell, ‘Everybody on the line!’ which meant it was time to run,” Veeder said. “And in the weight room, you could always hear his voice, that booming baritone voice.”

Kurt Westling was on the ’96 championship team coaching staff at Aliso Niguel and would later become the school’s third head coach in 2010.

“Joe was a first-thing-in-the morning guy, so full of energy,” said Westling who was the Wolverines’ offensive coordinator for several seasons, including the ’96 season. “He loved the morning lift (weight-lifting sessions). He loved the kids getting up early so they wouldn’t have a chance to do to something bad the night before.”

Wood did not have a son of his own. He did have sons outside of his family.

“Joe thought of all of the football kids as his sons,” Westling said. “He’d treat them with the same love, and sometimes with the same discipline, as you would with your own sons. He always wanted them to do well, in football and in life after football.”

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