Energy. Enthusiasm. And an authentic smile that reveals contagious excitement. Coach Terrence Johnson, Rappahannock County High School’s new head football coach, began his duties by holding a team meeting on Monday, July 19.
The first noticeable effect of the excitement: school officials say some 50 students have signed up for fall football this summer, more than in any recent year.
Before that first July meeting, Johnson talked about his success as the defensive coordinator at Bruton High, a double-A school in Williamsburg.
“We took a team with 30 total players and no JV. Half the roster was freshmen or sophomores, and our largest player was only 185 pounds. Just by teaching the fundamentals and getting the athletes to believe, we went all the way to the state championship finals. Before that, we’d get off the bus and spectators would laugh at our size. But every time we entered the field, we locked arms and walked on as brothers. Everything that needed to be said was said when we played the game.”
After two successful seasons there, Johnson’s next move was to accept a position at RCHS. “Opportunity was here. The PE job and head coaching job were here. My old coach always said if there was opportunity, don’t just dismiss it. I was able to interview with Rappahannock administrators who had a lot of athletic and even football background. After the interview, I felt we were all on the same page. I wanted the chance to start fresh, build the program, build a tradition.”
In 2002, Johnson earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education with specialization in coaching from West Virginia University. The former Mountaineer turned Panther has been teaching and coaching ever since. His vita touts experience beyond the gridiron. He’s been a head coach and assistant coach in soccer, basketball, and track and field.
All that experience and expertise comes with a simple vision for Panther football. “My main goal,” Johnson said, “is to focus on the fundamentals. I’m a teacher, so I’m gonna teach, teach, teach until I cannot teach anymore. First, I will stress the student part of being a student athlete. Secondly, I will help them build faith and confidence to believe in not only themselves but to believe in the family of coaches and each other. We should have fun. Cheer, be happy and joyous about what we are doing. We’re all gonna believe Blue and Gold. We’re all a family. Win together; lose together. We will build a foundation from there.”
Athletic Director Jamie Harris says he’s likes Johnson’s “energy and passion for the game. That’s going to be a big boost for our program. He brings a lot of knowledge, and he came highly recommended from his peers. With his leadership skills, this time next year we could be talking about playoff games.”
Fall practices begin Aug. 2, and the Panther football season begins on Aug. 13 when the team travels to Covington High School for a scrimmage. The first home game is Sept. 10 at 7 p.m. against St. John’s Front Royal.