Prep Pulse: Johnson looks to rebuild Blue Wave program


Former Eastside and Hawthorne coach Kent Johnson will try to turn the P.K. Yonge football program around.

Erica Brough/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, July 20, 2013 at 10:52 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, July 20, 2013 at 10:52 p.m.

P.K. Yonge football coach Kent Johnson knows exactly how Rob Cox is feeling these days.

Facts

Fall football classics

Aug. 22
The Villages at Branford, 7 p.m.
Aug. 23
Buchholz at Bradford, 7 p.m.
Gainesville at Palm Bay Heritage, 7 p.m.
Lakeland Victory Academy at Interlachen, 7 p.m.
St. Francis at Bell, 7 p.m.
Hilliard at Union County, 7 p.m.
Keystone Heights at Orange Park Ridgeview, 7 p.m.
P.K. Yonge at Santa Fe, 7:30 p.m.
Bronson at Oak Hall, 7:30 p.m.
Jacksonville Trinity Christian at Columbia, 7:30 p.m.
Eastside at Palatka, 7:30 p.m.
Newberry at Trenton, 7:30 p.m.
Hawthorne at Lafayette, 7:30 p.m.
Dixie County at Fort White, 7:30 p.m.
Wildwood at Chiefland, 7:30 p.m.
Madison County at Suwannee, 7:30 p.m.
Williston at Brooksville Central, 7:30 p.m.
Regular season kicks off Aug. 29-30

It happened to him a few years ago, when Eastside let Johnson go as football coach after nine seasons which ended with records of 3-7 and 2-8.

The reasons they were let go were similar. A change was needed at both places. Eastside replaced Johnson after the 2010 season with Jeff Parker.

Eleven days ago, P.K. Yonge replaced Cox with Johnson.

Last year, Parker led the Rams to their first district title since 2008. Johnson, who turned around programs at both Eastside (five straight state playoff berths and four district titles) and Hawthorne (four playoffs in six years), will try to do the same with the Blue Wave, who have just eight wins in four years.

Plus P.K. Yonge, which had been independent the previous two years, will play the next two years in District 2-3A, which has one of the area's top football programs in Ocala Trinity Catholic. Other teams in the district are Daytona Beach Father Lopez and Tallahassee Maclay. So while the Celtics will certainly be the favorites, the real battle will be for runner-up, which also earns a playoff berth.

“I have been at adverse situations before,” Johnson said. “Hawthorne had some success at football off and on, but it was a basketball school. I got there and stabilized the program. Eastside has had some great teams. It took a couple of years to turn that around and what I was most proud of was we were able to get a lot of kids in college during my nine years.

“Catherine Atria (P.K. Yonge principal) and I had worked together before at Newberry. She was the assistant principal and I was the athletic director. She felt like I had been in tough situations before. She felt it was time to add a new spark.”

Two of the Blue Wave's three district games are on the road, with only Maclay coming to Gainesville on Nov. 1. P.K. Yonge will play at Santa Fe in its fall classic on Aug. 23 (7:30 p.m. start).

“There is something about taking over a team that is an underdog,” Johnson said. “They have won the Floyd E. Lay Sunshine Cup (all sports) trophy for 10 years running. P.K. Yonge has an outstanding sports tradition. Our philosophy is you play to win, but you also play to be the best you can be that night. If they've got 55 points, you try to get 56.

“I think we can go about it in a fun way. My hope is that the kids will buy in. All I can do is go with what has worked in the past.”

HEADING SOUTH: Bradford boys basketball coach Traavis Chandler resigned and has taken over at Miami Northwestern. In his four years at his alma mater, Chandler led the Tornadoes to a 78-40 record, which included a regional final berth and two district titles. Recent graduate and big man Justin McBride (6-foot-10, 330 pounds) is expected to do big things at UCF in his freshman year.

His former coach is hoping to do the same in Dade County.

“It wasn't an easy decision to make, but I finally came to the conclusion that it is all about opportunity,” Chandler said. “To come here in one of the biggest cities in state of Florida ... it was a very tough decision. I am very excited about the team I am inheriting. The school has a great tradition in athletics. I am proud of the team I left behind. I feel I left the program at Bradford in good hands.”

Chandler's cousin, Adrian Chandler, who also played at Bradford, has taken over as the Tornadoes' basketball coach.

Traavis Chandler replaces Maurice Trope, who had been at Northwestern since the 2007-2008 season, but had led the Bulls to only one playoff berth (2009). Northwestern beat Bradford by 23 at the Chaminade Holiday Classic last December in Fort Lauderdale.

Bradford reached the regional finals for the first time in 10 years in 2011, losing at home to state champion Tallahassee Rickards.

LAFAYETTE HONORED: The Florida Athletic Coaches Association named Lafayette the Class 1A recipient of the Cary E. McDonald Award, which goes to the athletic program of the year.

The Hornets reached the state finals in volleyball (winning 2nd straight title) and softball (runner-up), and reached the regional finals in football and boys soccer.

Last year, Union County won the honor in 1A.

“We are very fortunate to have good athletes and coaches as well as a supportive school administration and community,” said Lafayette athletic director Mike Harris.

GHS HIRES TWO COACHES: Hurricanes athletic director Cindy Boulware announced the hiring of two head coaches, both promotions from within. Pedro Rodrigues replaces Chrissy Roddy as girls soccer coach. Roddy, The Sun's coach of the year, resigned after last season to pursue other interests. Rodrigues, who is very involved in the Gainesville Soccer Alliance, had been an assistant coach. In wrestling, John Davis, a 2001 graduate and former GHS wrestling standout, replaces Ryland Wagner as coach. Wagner stepped down in April after 10 years and is currently the general manager of Shuck restaurant. Davis, who is a MMA fighter, had been a volunteer assistant with the program for three years.

TWO WEEKS AND COUNTING: Come Monday, it will be two weeks until practices begin in football (non-contact), as well as girls volleyball, cross country, swimming and diving and golf. Football will have five days of non-contact before full pads and contact will be permitted beginning Aug. 10. Fall classics in football will take place Aug. 22-23 with perhaps the most interesting matchup in Trenton where the Tigers, Class 1A state finalists a year ago, take on Newberry in a rematch of that classic state semifinal. Trenton won that, 36-35, in overtime before a packed Panthers' stadium.

TEAM PREVIEWS: Our football season previews begin on Aug. 1 with the Bell Bulldogs and will continue alphabetically through Aug. 24 with the Williston Red Devils. On that date, we will also release our Super 11 team, our preseason picks of the top players in the area.

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

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