P.K. Yonge looks to build with Johnson


Photos of P.K. Yonge, Hawthorne, Bronson, Santa Fe
Photos of P.K. Yonge, Hawthorne, Bronson, Santa Fe

Josh Gebhardt (17), Anthony Andrews (21), Hunter Eskew (3), Charles "Chuck" Gates (72) and Mason Hewitt (75) and Coach Kent Johnson Seniors from the P.K. Yonge football team pose for a portrait during the high school media day at The Gainesville Sun on Monday, July 22, 2013, in Gainesville, Fla.

Elizabeth Hamilton / Correspondent
Published: Sunday, August 18, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 10:30 p.m.

When he was first hired at P.K. Yonge in early July, Kent Johnson felt like he was playing catch-up with a football team already in motion.

As the veteran coach assumed control over a Blue Wave program with four wins in the last two seasons, Johnson knew he would have less than a month to assemble both a coaching staff and evaluate his players before the season started.

Johnson, who led Hawthorne and Eastside to multiple playoff berths in previous coaching stints, would also be responsible for guiding P.K. Yonge back into a four-team FHSAA district after two seasons of playing an independent schedule.

“We’re going on the field expecting to beat those teams,” said Johnson, who left Eastside in 2011 to work as Newberry’s athletic director. “Kind of like Jackson Browne, we’re ‘Running on empty.’ If we’re empty, we’re still running, and we’re going to do what we have to do.”

Leading up to his debut with the Blue Wave in Friday’s preseason classic at Santa Fe, Johnson likes what he has seen from his hastily gathered staff and new group of players.

P.K. Yonge returns 10 starters from a team that went 1-9 last season, but Johnson has been impressed with how the Blue Wave’s upperclassmen have reacted to the coaching transition from former coach Rob Cox, who held the job for two seasons.

“What I’ve seen from these guys is that they’re hard workers, and they’re eager to learn. They get excited about the game,” Johnson said. “The general public expects them to lose. But looking at them on film, they went out and gave it their best. But I expect them to make plays.”

Under offensive coordinator Marion Chisholm, who has coached periodically with Johnson since 1983, P.K. Yonge’s new-look offense will primarily run out of the Wing-T formation but will also utilize multiple formations.

After losing leading rusher and receiver D’Karas Fields and former quarterback Van Turner off last season’s squad to graduation, Johnson hopes for playmakers to emerge in the form of starting running back Anthony Andrews (46 carries, 252 yards) and fellow senior Tamarick Vanover (nine catches, 135 yards).

Senior tight end Hunter Eskew also returns as a valuable weapon in special teams play. Doubling as the team’s kicker and punter, Eskew averaged more than 35 yards per punt last season with a long of 55 yards.

“We’ve got some exciting people that we can spring them and get them in the open field,” Johnson said. “We’ve got any one of 10 players that I think can take it the distance.”

The Blue Wave will also have a new quarterback in senior Josh Gebhardt helming the offense, but Johnson is most concerned with the depth of his linemen while playing a District 2-3A slate featuring state power Ocala Trinity Catholic, Tallahassee Maclay and Daytona Beach Father Lopez.

Chuck Gates, who missed last season with a knee injury, returns as a valuable source of size at 6-foot-2, 270 pounds on both the offensive and defensive lines. Fellow senior starters Ed Bonahue and Mason Hewitt also anchor the offensive line but weigh in at 205 pounds and 210 pounds, respectively.

“We got to try to keep people off-balance, because we don’t have a big brute group of linemen just to smash people,” Johnson said. “Which I’d rather do, but we won’t be scared to throw the bomb or run a reverse. We’re going to be wide-open.”

On the other side of the ball, the Blue Wave will work out of a 4-3 alignment under defensive coordinator Henry McMillian, a former defensive tackle at both the University of Florida and with the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.

“On defense, coach McMillian will get after it,” Johnson said. “They’re going to go at it. They won’t be scared to gamble, and they won’t be scared to blitz.”

P.K. Yonge Blue Wave

2012 record: 1-9

Coach: Kent Johnson (first season)

Key games: Aug. 30 at Williston; Oct. 11 at Father Lopez; Nov. 1 vs. Tallahassee Maclay

Players to watch: Anthony Andrews, Sr., RB/CB; Chuck Gates, Sr., OL/DL; Josh Gebhardt, Sr., QB; Ed Bonahue, Sr., OL/LB; Hunter Eskew, Sr., TE/P/K

SCHEDULE

(All games at 7 p.m. unless noted)

Aug. 30 at Williston 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 6 Bell

Sept. 13 Jacksonville Bishop Snyder

Sept. 20 at St. Francis 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 27 Hawthorne

Oct. 4 at Father Lopez*

Oct. 11 Interlachen 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 18 at Ocala Trinity Catholic*

Oct. 25 at Lafayette 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 1 Tallahassee Maclay*

Nov. 8 Idle

*District 2-3A games

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