Calling it the biggest decision of his coaching life, Casey Taylor is leaving Del Oro High School to lead Capital Christian’s football team.
Taylor is departing the Loomis school, where he took over a successful program and turned it into one of the state’s best, to accept the challenge of taking a strong Capital Christian program to new heights.
Taylor, 46, went through a final walkthrough at Capital Christian over the weekend, then met with Del Oro principal Dan Gayaldo to tender his football resignation before signing on with Capital Christian.
In his 15 seasons at Del Oro, Taylor guided 14 playoff teams and reached a Sac-Joaquin Section final nine times, winning six titles, including four this decade. The Golden Eagles reached a CIF State Bowl title game four times this decade, winning a championship in 2015 and nearly repeating in 2016. After a school workout Tuesday morning, he tearfully said goodbye to Del Oro players, many of them underclassmen he helped mentor.
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“The hard part was how to do this with both sides,” Taylor said. “It’s not an emotional decision to leave Del Oro. It’s a lifelong decision. I had a great team at Del Oro, and I respect the heck out of Dan Gayaldo and that school. I never planned to leave, and I would only think of leaving if there was a great job and the stars aligned just right. Capital Christian opened my eyes to a new vision, and I want to be involved in it. I’m a lifelong learner and I want to build something special.”
Del Oro players said they were disappointed to see Taylor go.
“It was definitely a surprise to most of the team, but (the final meeting) went OK,” sophomore defensive back Dawson Hurst said. “He told us how proud of us he is. It’s his decision, and I understand, but I’ll definitely miss him.”
A successful foundation is in place at Capital Christian, which opened in 1977. In the late 1980s and into the ’90s the kindergarten-through-12th-grade school grew in enrollment, but the basketball teams still played on a carpeted floor.
Capital Christian, under the direction of the Rev. Rick Cole, opened a spacious new gym in the early 2000s along with more classrooms in new buildings. From 1977 to 2010, the Cougars won 10 section basketball championships, most coming in the smaller Northern Section. Since 2010, the school has won 26 Sac-Joaquin Section titles in girls and boys sports.
The Cougars won section football titles in Division VI in 2014 and D-V in 2016. By fall 2018, Capital Christian expects to be realigned from the D-V Golden Empire League into a revamped D-III Capital Athletic League that likely will include football playoff regulars Christian Brothers, Del Campo, El Camino, Vista del Lago and perhaps Sacramento.
Capital Christian’s ninth-through-12th-grade enrollment of 456 students is its most ever, and school officials plan to reach 800. The school opened a new track and football field last academic year and is working on plans to construct an 8,000-square-foot performance center that will include weight rooms.
Taylor, known for scheduling tough nonleague games at Del Oro, said he will “take on area top-10 teams” at Capital Christian. Taylor will meet with Cougars players this week and immediately begin supervising winter strength and conditioning workouts. He will remain a physical education teacher at Del Oro through this academic year and start full-time teaching and coaching duties at Capital Christian in the summer, including elective courses such as character and competition character sessions.
Taylor’s close friendship with Jason Harper, founder and director of Character Combine, also played a role in his decision to join Capital Christian. He and Harper have been pals since they were 9 growing up in El Dorado Hills. Harper tours the country to host character-training seminars for players and coaches. He is also the chief strategic officer for the school and church at Capital Christian.
“We think this is a phenomenal hire, to get Casey,” said Harper, whose school tried to land Taylor five years ago. “He’s been defined by his efforts and the efforts of his players on and off the field. He’s a great builder.”
Taylor said he expects backlash. In 2009, a Placer County resident and a 1970s Del Oro player levied threats against Taylor, including threats of a sniper attack, for attempting to retire a jersey number. It got so bad that Taylor coached the section final flanked by sheriff’s deputies.
In 2011, Taylor faced searing criticism by members of the Del Oro football community for benching starters after they violated team rules, though the Golden Eagles went on to win a section title. In 2015, many frustrated parents and/or boosters sent Taylor emails, text messages, voice mails and flooded fan message boards demanding his removal after a 2-6 start. Del Oro responded by winning a CIF State title.
Taylor said he learned from the experiences, none of which buckled him, he said.
“I know some will want to throw rocks at me for leaving,” Taylor said. “But it’s time.”