By DENNIS BRUNSON firstname.lastname@example.org
Stop! It’s Hammer time in Summerton again, and that can mean only one thing: Leonard Johnson is back as the head coach of the Scott’s Branch High School football program.
Johnson, who brought the Eagles out of a long losing streak after taking over to lead them to a pair of 1A Division II state titles from 2005 to 2012, will begin his second stint at the school when the Eagles travel to Clarendon County rival Manning on Friday.
“Not in a million years,” Johnson responded while laughing when asked if he ever thought he would be coaching at Scott’s Branch again. “It’s like coming back home. I’m thankful for the opportunity to come back and give back.
“It’s just like home. I’m comfortable in my skin there.”
And coming back with Johnson is the Hammer offense, a physical, run-heavy offense in which Johnson has complete faith.
“It’s nothing but a little Pop Warner football play,” Johnson said in describing the offense. “That’s all. You block down and you kick out.
But It’s a play once a kid gets into his system, he get to understand we don’t have to do the complicated things to be successful.
“It forces them to work together as a team, it forces them to be unselfish. Someone is going to stand out, but they know they didn’t do it by themselves.”
Johnson was able to start implementing the offense in spring practice when he took over from Brian Smith on an interim basis. He said his team is starting to get the hang of the offense.
“It’s a simple play, but there are a lot of things going on,” Johnson said. “They’ve picked up very well on what want to do, they’ve just got to get to where they execute it better. Once we get the execution down, they’re going to be dangerous young men.”
Scott’s Branch went 3-7 last year in its only season under Smith, who returned to C.E. Murray for his second stint at the school. Along with Smith leaving, the Eagles lost several key players to graduation such as Treyshawn Moore, Sean Swaringer, Amonte’ Brown and Kendrick Lesesne.
Johnson said the key to this team being successful is be just that – a team.
“We want to build mental toughness,” he said. “We want to be physical and everything, but we want to come together as a team.
“We don’t have enough athletes to do special things, so we have to be the best team. We are one. We’ve got to walk that talk. We can’t say we’ve got to be together as a team and then have a couple of guys shine out.”
As tough as Johnson wants his players to be on offense, he said he wants them even tougher on the defensive side of the ball.
“We’ll run the 46,” Johnson said. “On defense, we’re super aggressive. We’re coming after you, we’re nasty, we’re denying you area.”
Linebacker Marquel Coard likes the sound of that.
“I can get on defense and just hit people, and that’s something I like to do.”
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