Johnson wastes little time preparing Titans
by Staff Writer
David Johnson isn’t a coach to waste much time.
He met his new Hopewell High School football players four days before his hiring was announced on July 5.
During conditioning workouts early this week, Johnson was an energetic force, offering emphatic suggestions as the Titans ran receiving drills. The relentless heat and humidity didn’t seem to faze Johnson, who is beginning his first stint as a head coach.
“We’re working hard,” Johnson said on July 11. “We’ve hit the ground running.”
Johnson was the offensive coordinator the past three seasons at Berry Academy in Charlotte and developed an offense that averaged 35 points per game last season.
Johnson used the Spread offense at Berry and is installing it at Hopewell. In a nutshell, the Spread uses three-, four- and five-receiver formations. The quarterback is in shotgun formation and hopes to stretch the defense in order to cover everyone.
Being stretched in the July 11 steam were lungs and legs of Hopewell’s receivers.
Johnson ran drills concentrating on receivers running precise patterns and making cuts correctly. In between sprints, he’d bark out questions.
“What route was that?”
Players: “A Four.” (Or a two or five or whatever applied).
Or “Was that a Two?”
Players: “Yes, sir.”
On and on the quizzing went.
Dancing inside every receiver’s head was the likely notion that if they get open this season, the ball could be headed their way.
Berry went three rounds into the Class 2A state playoffs last season, before being eliminated by eventual champion Salisbury. Hopewell has a playoff history, too. The Titans have made the playoffs the past six seasons.
“I like (Johnson’s) energy, his ideas around discipline and creating a family atmosphere,” said Jamie Billings, Hopewell’s athletics director. “The applicant pool was impressive, and we are excited to have a man with high integrity and vision to lead our program. Coach Johnson feels there is plenty of time to prepare and get everyone on the same page for the season.”
Hopewell’s practice field was a buzz of activity during July 11’s oppressive heat.
Johnson ran about a dozen receivers through paces, a few yards from where an assistant coach was working with quarterbacks.
Across the field, the beefier Titans were bouncing off padded blocking dummies. Others were sharpening hand techniques against a padded sled.
In the middle of the field, an assistant coach was throwing passes to defensive backs. After three in a row bounced off hands and onto the ground, he reminded them “I don’t expect perfection, but I will be coaching you toward it. Catch the ball.”
Johnson got a late start replacing former coach Chris Rust because of the hiring process, but working in Hopewell’s favor was the fact that all the assistant coaches remain. Summer workouts before Johnson’s hiring went as scheduled and were directed by defensive coordinator Casimir Bundrick.
Johnson drafted one coach from Berry’s staff. Fredrick Hoskins, Berry’s defensive coordinator, joined Hopewell as a defensive backs and special teams coach.
Football practice officially begins July 30, when players are allowed to wear helmets and shorts. The first day a team can scrimmage another team is Aug. 9, and the first playing date is Aug. 19.
Hopewell will host Providence on Aug. 19 in the season opener.