By CONOR NICHOLL
Ashland head football coach Ben Fox has enjoyed a plethora of roles, jobs and hobbies.
Fox served as an assistant football coach at his alma mater from 2015-16 and the head coach since. Fox has coached a variety of other roles, including head girls’ basketball coach and head track coach.
He’s taught physical education and math, served on the Ashland recreation commission board for seven-plus years, and worked as a play-by-play announcer, construction hand, and farmhand for the family ranch.
He’s also built his own house.
“I like to use my hands and build things,” Fox told SIK this summer. “I have kind of been that way forever.”
The multitude of interests helped Fox develop the theme of “Hold Your Shield” for the Ashland football program. Fox was researching online and liked the material based on Jordan B. Goldstein’s teachings that originate from the Spartans/Greeks ethos from ancient times. Fox and Goldstein frequently converse, including earlier this month. The lessons go beyond football for the Ashland players.
“They are going to go on and do things like be fathers and be workers for somebody or bosses for somebody or work alongside somebody,” Fox said.
Goldstein has focused on the benefits of sports and competition for young men. He connected it to the famous Spartan warriors, including the historically known 300-person army that faced the mighty Persians at the Battle of Thermopylae. The battle helped shape western civilization.
Fox has emphasized, especially in six-man football where there’s significant one-on-one matchups, doing your role and responsibility.
“Being steady and sturdy in your role, having the mentality and physicality to kind of hold up that role, it was really cool,” Fox said.
As a player or coach, Fox has been a part of the Bluejays’ best football teams in the last 25 years. Last season, Ashland finished 8-2 and dealt with some injuries, among other hurdles.
That included a 72-24 loss to Cunningham and 67-18 state semifinal defeat to Natoma. Ashland took third, Cunningham second, Natoma first.
“The benefits young men can take from these lessons in sports and hard competition, going against some of these teams like Natoma, Cunningham, the other solid teams,” Fox said.
Ashland entered as a state contender this fall, which SIK detailed in the summer 6-Man Preview.
After the first five games, Ashland has solidified as the No. 2 team in the first year of KSHSAA sanctioned six-man football. Ashland is 4-1 with a 38-30 loss to No. 1 Cunningham and coach Lance McGuire in the season opener. Fox has enjoyed working with McGuire at the six-man all-star game.
“Schedule the toughest teams and see what we can learn,” Fox said.
That is easily Cunningham’s closest game. Since then, Ashland has defeated Golden Plains (56-6), Cheylin (50-28), Deerfield (78-33) and Rolla (55-6).
Ashland has used three quarterbacks, all returning starters and all non-seniors. Junior Landen McPhail has completed 14 of 21 passes for 289 yards with four scores against no interceptions. Sophomore Lathan McPhail has 11 of 15 passing for 222 yards with seven scores. Junior Britt Grigsby has 15 of 29 passing for 195 yards with five scores.
Overall, Ashland has thrown 17 TDs against zero picks.
Junior Kale Harris, hurt the last two seasons, has 34 carries for 397 yards and six scores. Landen has 50 carries for 314 yards and six TDs. Lathan has 12 catches for 294 yards and five TDs. Lathan leads the defense with 46 stops. Lone senior Nathan Lynn is a returning first team all-state six-man lineman.
Cheylin is currently No. 3 in six-man football. Ashland stands 32-16 under Fox. His brother, Giles, is Ben’s veteran assistant coach. Giles was a former all-state player at Ashland with a variety of interests, too. He cleared 216 feet in the javelin as an unattached thrower at the Rock Chalk Classic at University of Kansas this spring.
Giles was all-conference baseball at Fort Hays and earned the FHSU Torch Award as the outstanding graduation senior from the Class of 2017. Giles majored in physics and math. The Torch Award is the pinnacle of Fort Hays student achievement. Known for his bow ties, Giles is a high school math and physics teacher.
Their younger sister, Lezah, has recently earned her bachelor’s and masters in human performance from Fort Hays. Ashland has assistant Jeff Chambers, who coached at Kinsley and won a six-man state title at Pawnee Heights. Ashland’s coaching staff is highly respected in the coaching ranks.
On Friday, Ashland is at Moscow (2-2). Ashland is currently leading District 3.
Fox was a 2011 Ashland graduate. As a 6-foot-2, 194-pound senior, Fox completed his career with 3,015 yards of total offense. Fox was on the Dodge City Community College football roster before an injury ended his career. In high school, Fox got the idea to build a tiny house, an idea that has since produced national TV shows and entered the American culture.
After college, Fox came back to Ashland and decided to construct. He was working out with Quanah Gardner, the Kansas state champion in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 for Ashland. Gardner helped Ashland win the ’16 boys’ state track championship when Fox served on staff.
Fox bought the trailer to put his house on. However, then Fox tore his Achilles training with Gardner.
“Was on one leg for the whole summer,” Fox said.
Fox, with significant help from Gardner, built the trailer in ’16-17. It’s 20 feet long, and 8.5 feet wide and sites on top of a hauler. Fox has a picture of it as his main Twitter photo. The home has all the needed amenities, a loft area above the living space, kitchen sink, bathroom and shower.
“There’s not a whole lot of room, but there’s enough room to live and do my daily stuff and sleep,” Fox said. “I don’t spend a whole lot of time in it.”
Fox enjoys being outside, helping on the farm, leading summer weights – and coaching, especially a state contender. Ashland has two state titles, in 1976 and ’80 and a ’95 runner-up. The house allows Fox to focus on his many interests.
“It’s perfect for that,” he said.