New Weed High School football coach Erik Johnson is looking to the past as he prepares to lead the Cougars forward.
Johnson, the JV head coach at Weed a year ago and a JV and varsity assistant at Mount Shasta before that, has scheduled a week-long live-in camp for players and coaches from Aug. 17 to 21.
Team building, Johnson said, is the goal of what he describes as an “old school”?approach.
“This group of kids has the work ethic and mind set,” Johnson said of a team that will only have a half dozen players returning from last year. “I?think they are ready to make this kind of commitment.”
Players will come to camp Sunday night and follow a daily schedule from 7 a.m. until lights-out at 11 p.m. They’ll sleep in the gym all week, eat together, practice three times a day together and have some down time for fun together.
Johnson and his assistant coaches will be there, too. He said parents have signed on to make meals and help in other ways, and the community has been supportive of the idea.
Parents are invited to watch the defense practices each evening of the camp week from 7:15 to 9 p.m.
“We’ve got a bunch of athletes, now we want them to become football players,”?Johnson said. “They’re willing to learn and the coaches are ready.”
Dave Toms is this year’s JV head coach. Varsity assistants are offensive coordinator Thomas Covington, a friend of Johnson’s from southern California, and former McCloud High School player Sean Harker.
Martin Nicholas is one of three JV assistant coaches.
Johnson was the defensive coordinator for the 2006 Mount Shasta High team that won a Northern Section championship.
He said he grew up in Seal Beach, just south of Long Beach, and learned about pass coverage and defense while playing as a lineman for seven years in a flag football passing league.
As he was moving into his new place in Mount Shasta on a Friday in 2003, Johnson said he met Bears assistant coach Adam Oreck. By Monday Johnson was on the field for the start of two-a-days as a JV special teams coach under Mike Burns.
He was the JV Bears defensive coordinator in 2004-05 before moving up in that capacity to the varsity.
Johnson took ’07 off after he and his brother purchased Shasta Lube & Oil. The next year he was on the sidelines in Weed.
To prepare for the ’09 season, the Cougars have been lifting weights on Tuesday and Thursday nights for the past two months.
At last count, Johnson said 23 varsity players were participating and close to 20 JV players, the majority of them first-year freshmen.
“We only have 24 varsity jerseys,”?the new coach said. “But that’s a good problem to have. They’re working hard in the weightroom and showing up to work out.”
Many of the players on this year’s varsity team were members of the JV Cougar team that won the SCL title with a 5-0 record and went 9-1 overall two years ago.
“We’re hoping to continue that cycle,” Johnson said.
He described his plan for the offense as “simple, with an opportunity to expand... We’ve got a good offensive line and eight skill guys who can play running back, fullback, tight end or receiver. We want to package them up in different ways and have some fun.”
Johnson’s bottom line defensive theory is also basic: “Eleven hats to the football,”?he said.
Prior to their camp week, the Cougars are scheduled to hold a week of conditioning practices Aug. 10 to 15.
Their first game is scheduled for Aug. 28 at home against Etna.
Johnson said the Carnevale ice cream booth run by players and parents raised enough money to pay for meals during the camp week.
He said others in the community have also been supportive, including Tyler Carmichael at Black Bear, Black Bear corporate and Roger Ward of The Garden Party. He also thanked his brother and his Sportsmen’s Den boss John Kennedy for helping him to free up his schedule.
“I?love coaching football,”?Johnson said. “Sports is a great metaphor for life. You learn how to work through adversity as a group. Losing helps you build character so you’re ready to win. Then you take these skills into life.”
Johnson said anybody who would like to join the Cougar football team can pick up a packet at the WHS office beginning Aug. 3. All players have to get a physical and have a 2.0 grade point average or better.