By Steve Breazeale
Ben Villa, longtime freshman football coach at San Clemente High School and color commentator for the Friday Night Live football broadcast, passed away at Saddleback Memorial Hospital at the age of 70 on January 25.
Villa is survived by his ex-wife Dorothy Villa, his two daughters, Samantha Leigh Veague and Jennifer Jordan-Villa; step-daughter and son, Leslie Martin and Deron Warner; along with his granddaughters, Emma, Valentina, Brittany, Madison, and McKenna.
Villa was born on December 27, 1942 in Oxnard. He attended Oxnard High and later graduated from Cal-Poly San Luis Obispo.
Villa, who worked as a consulting civil engineer, loved to coach. His roots in the San Clemente youth sports scene and San Clemente High School sports programs run deep.
Richard Corder, Villa’s friend and colleague of 33 years, first met Villa in 1979. The two immediately hit it off and began coaching junior All-American football alongside one another in San Juan Capistrano. When Corder became a freshman football coach at San Clemente High, he reached out to Villa to come along with him. For the next 20 years the two would be a coaching tandem, handling the task of molding the freshman coming into the Triton football program.
“Ben did an outstanding job coaching and was so caring. He really, really loved working with the kids at the freshman level,” Corder said. “He was just an outstanding coach… He worked real hard with all of the kids to make sure they played the game right and to enjoy the game and love it.”
As a coach, Villa became known for what he called his “listening drill.” After every game, whether it was a win or a loss, Villa would line his players up in formation, then yell “Hit,” after which each player would raise his hands to his helmet. Villa would bellow out another “Hit” seconds later and the players would put their hands to their thighs. More movements, like a turn to the left or turn to the right, would follow. It became routine.
“I’ll be danged every kid knew (that drill) and listened to it,” Corder said with a laugh. “Every time I talk to a former player of (Villa’s) they all remember that drill.”
Villa was also instrumental in producing Friday Night Live, a live web broadcast of Triton football games. Corder and Villa came up with the idea 10 years ago, with Corder calling the play-by-play action and Villa providing color commentary complete with stats about the Tritons and their opponents.
The two were known for their in-game banter. Early on, Corder dubbed Villa “Dr. Doom,” which he thought was fitting for the longtime coach who wasn’t afraid to speak his mind and critique a team when they made a mistake. Villa responded by calling Corder “Homer Simpson,” on account of what Villa saw as an inability of Corder’s to point out flaws in the home town Tritons.
A funeral service for Mr. Villa is planned for Thursday, January 31 at 11 a.m. at St. Edwards Church, 33926 Calle La Primavera in Dana Point.