by Taylor Williams
November 4, 2009 – As the month of October expires and the high school football season winds down, one thing remains certain: there is very little room for error. With so many teams competing for the coveted 5A Catholic League title, the need for consistent, solid play becomes critical. David Johnson, rookie head coach of the Saint Augustine Purple Knights, has described this philosophical coaching element as crucial in establishing and maintaining success on the field, and sees it as the cornerstone from which subsequent coaching ideals are derived. So how exactly have the Purple Knights implemented this strategy?
To answer that question, one need only examine the team’s record, which began with five consecutive romps, followed by two tough losses to divisional opponents Jesuit and Shaw. The team followed those losses with an impressive victory over reigning champs Brother Martin, and must now display the consistency factor to defeat league leaders Archbishop Rummel. Thus it is clear, upon cursory inspection, that the need for consistency underlies much of the Purple Knights’ approach to the game. But that is only the tip of the coaching iceberg. Motivation, preparation, and organization resonate deeply within Coach Johnson and his team, ideals traceable to Johnson’s training under former Alabama head coach Mike Dubose, whose emphasis on detailed, regimented activities both off and on the field has been instrumental to Johnson’s development as a coach. When it comes to executing those ideals, Johnson simply asks that his team play “fast, physical, and smart, and that they recognize opportunities and capitalize on them.” This style of play can also be traced back to the origins of Johnson’s coaching career, most notably his four years at Millsaps College as receivers coach and recruiting coordinator. This experience provided him with firsthand knowledge of the speed of play of college football, which he incorporates into his team’s style of play. And it has been working wonders, especially considering that this year’s team lacks the depth and experience of so many of its opponents, relying on a core group of nine seniors. These guys set the tone for the team, both in the locker room and on the field, and their attentiveness to high speed of play is certainly paying dividends. Terrell McCall, a starting defensive back who splits time as cornerback and free safety, runs a 4.3 forty, and is being recruited by Tennessee, and Tyron Matthieu, a triple threat as wide receiver, cornerback, and kick returner has committed to LSU. These players exemplify the potential success from adhering to Coach Johnson’s system, and reflect his belief that “defense wins championships, while offense sells tickets”. This may sound surprising when one considers the fact that some of the Purple Knights’ victories have been by as much as 40 points, and the fact that his coaching background is mainly offensively oriented. But he is quick to credit his defense as the facilitator of his offense’s success. Consequently, the consistent play has been maintained on both sides of the ball, and the Purple Knights are right there in the thick of it as the season approaches its end.