Cox out, Johnson in as football coach at P.K. Yonge


Former Eastside and Hawthorne football coach Kent Johnson takes over at P.K. Yonge.

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Published: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 at 7:55 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 at 7:55 p.m.

Rob Cox stepped down as head football coach at P.K. Yonge on Wednesday, 26 days before the opening of preseason practices and following two seasons that resulted in just four wins.

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Former Eastside and Hawthorne football coach Kent Johnson takes over at P.K. Yonge.

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Cox, who replaced Nathaniel “Lou” Seward after two seasons which also produced four wins, will be replaced by former Eastside and Hawthorne coach Kent Johnson, who recently resigned as Newberry High's athletic director after two years.

“I just wanted to step back a little bit, spend more time with my children,” said Cox, who has a son entering eighth grade and a daughter entering fifth. “I am not going to have that opportunity forever. I will still be here on Friday nights. Next year, I will be the No. 1 fan. I will probably be involved and help Kent with the transition. I will go back to being the behind-the-scenes guy.”

The Blue Wave had seasons of 3-7 in 2011 and 1-9 in 2012 under Cox, a former varsity assistant who previously coached the middle school program. P.K. Yonge won its first two games in 2011, beating Williston and Chiefland, but lost 16 of the next 18 games, defeating only Jacksonville Christ Church Academy both years.

“The last few years there has been a lot of frustration,” Blue Wave athletic director John Clifford said. “A lack of success takes its toll. Rob wears a lot of hats, runs the after-school program. He tries to do a lot of things.

“He will remain in our football program in some capacity. I would like him to work with the younger programs.”

Johnson, who coached nine years at Eastside, led the Rams to five straight state playoff berths and three district titles between 2004-2008, reaching the regional finals in 2005. At Hawthorne, he had the Hornets in four playoffs in six years between 1995-2001.

Johnson has also coached girls basketball for 14 years, nine at Hawthorne and five at Eastside (Class 4A finalists in 2005), and has also coached track. He has 32 years of high school athletic experience in Alachua County.

“Kent and I have been friends for a long time,” Clifford said. “For our situation, trying to rebuild the program, he is probably the best we could find. We are kind of lucky that he was available for the position.”

Originally, Johnson had planned to be a physical education instructor at Oak View Middle School in Newberry this fall.

“(The administration was) realistic about the lack of success P.K. Yonge has had in football the last couple of years,” said Johnson, who worked with school principal Catherine Atria while at Newberry. “They realized Rob worked hard and felt a change would be a shot in the arm to revitalize the program. I have a lot of experience. When you make a change, sometimes change brings about renewed enthusiasm.”

P.K. Yonge, which will play in District 2-3A the next two years, hasn't reached the state playoffs since 2004. Among the schools in the four-team district is traditional football power Ocala Trinity Catholic, which has reached the postseason 10 straight years and won a pair of state titles.

“A lot of it depends on players and the schedule,” said Clifford, who led the Blue Wave to eight playoffs, including six straight from 1999-2004. “Every two years the FHSAA changes things up, either we are in a league we can't compete in or a league we can compete in. We may not be on the level of Trinity Catholic right now, but I believe the other teams (Daytona Beach Father Lopez, Tallahassee Maclay) we have a chance to play with right now.”

Cox said it was an honor to be head coach of the Blue Wave and believes the hiring of Johnson is positive for the program.

“It is not about me, it is about them and I want the program to be successful,” Cox said. “To have a person as accomplished as Kent Johnson doesn't come often. To have someone like that is great for the program. He works well with young athletes. I am still part of the program and will help coach Johnson any way I can.”

The Blue Wave, who were shut out by Class 1A Crescent City in their spring game (62-0), must find new playmakers on both sides of the ball this season. Johnson said he is not concerned about the past, and will begin work Monday, assembling his staff and teaching the basics to his players.

“It's short (preparation) to say the least, all we can do is start teaching and learning,” he said. “I will get in there on Monday and start. We will work on some 7-on-7 stuff and figure out who on campus should be playing. We want people to come out.

“I think we have a chance to make a statement. When I was at Hawthorne, P.K. Yonge was the standard we tried to be like. I know this school has a great tradition. I have been around here coaching for 30 something years, and eventually we can get a school up and running and win big here. I've never seen P.K. Yonge in the light of football like it has been the last four years. They have a lot of tradition that we will try to recapture.”

Contact Larry Savage at 352-374-5050 or larry.savage@gvillesun.com. And follow him at Twitter.com/sunpreps

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