Lake Norman & Mooresville

Young coach steps into long-vacant Titans football job

After months of waiting, Hopewell High finally announced a new football coach last week.

David Johnson, who was Phillip O. Berry's offensive coordinator for the past three years, will take over the Titans program.

"It's a great opportunity," said Johnson. "I'm ecstatic about it. Being a head coach has been my goal since I started playing back when I was 5 years old."

Hopewell athletic director Jamie Billings said Johnson, who played college football at NCAA Division III SUNY Brockport, was a good fit for the Titans.

"He has a lot of qualities that we liked - a lot of enthusiasm and strong work ethic," he said.

Johnson said that, aside from the Xs and Os, he thought his community-oriented approach to the game helped him secure the job.

"I want my players to volunteer ... to be out in the community and be more than just a football team," said Johnson.

The 26-year-old becomes just the third coach in Hopewell's 10-year history.

The hiring took place nearly five months after former Hopewell coach Chris Rust announced his retirement in February. Rust, who was at the program's helm since 2005 and will be an assistant at Rock Hill High this fall for coach Joe Montgomery, had a 43-31 record and made the playoffs each of his six seasons at Hopewell.

The long-awaited hire had been delayed after a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools hiring freeze halted the coaching search until nearly a month ago.

"The most difficult thing was the uncertainty of having a job open for that long - answering the questions from the kids, coaches and people from the community," said Billings. "But that was just the situation we were put in, and unfortunately that was out of our control."

Billings said the process also depended heavily on what teaching openings the school would have for the next school year. Johnson will teach world history.

Despite his inexperience as a head coach, Johnson said he hopes having been around his father, a coach for more than 30 years in his native New York, will make up for that.

"I like to think I'm mature beyond my years," said Johnson, who said he's been watching game tape for as long as he can remember.

"Growing up in a coaching household, I've been around a lot of good teams and good coaches, so I've been lucky to absorb information like a sponge."

Johnson is a hands-on, energetic coach who says he runs a fast-paced spread offense.

Under Johnson, Berry's offense averaged more than 35 points per game last year to lead the Cardinals to an 11-3 record (6-2 in the Rocky River 1A/2A).

Berry head coach Andrew Howard said Johnson's play-calling and schemes had a lot to do with his team's success.

"He's really thorough, really knowledgeable. ... He loves studying the game and being around the game," said Howard.

"I'm going to miss him a lot; the kids are going to miss him a lot."

Despite losing valuable summer workout time with his new team, Johnson said, being able to keep last year's assistants, including defensive coordinator Casimir Bundrick, on staff will be a big boost and provide a sort of continuity for the players.

Johnson said the only newcomer to the program will be Fredrick Hoskins, Berry's former defensive coordinator, who will be the Titans' defensive backs/special-teams coach.

Johnson is excited about what the future holds for him and the Titans, but he knows playing catch-up for the next month will not be easy.

"We're going to have to coach our rear ends off and get this team developed in terms of terminology and the system," he said.

"Picking on it shouldn't be too hard, but we can't waste any more time."