By Garrett Ross
A 2-2 record before the bye might not seem like much for some teams, but for Prairie Lea it shows signs of promise.
The Indians haven’t seen very many victories over the past two seasons, in fact, they have more wins in 2019 than the previous two seasons combined.
First year head coach Josh Johnson isn’t a stranger to turning programs around, in fact, he actually has a knack for it.
“I would consider myself a strong motivator and really relatable to student athletes, just in my experiences in different walks of life. The hardest part of turning a program around is getting the athletes to buy in. Once you get them bought in, the job becomes much easier,” said Johnson. “The kids here at Prairie Lea are some of the hardest working kids that I have coached. Our job as a staff now is to make sure that continue to change the culture and mindset of a program that has struggled in years past.
Johnson took the job at Prairie Lea after guiding Wichita Christian to a 6-4 record in 2018. Wichita Christian was very similar to Prairie Lea prior to the arrival of Johnson.
From 2009-2013, Wichita Christian won a total of ten games. Johnson took over the program in 2015 and immediately made an impact. The Stars opened the 2015 season with back-to-back 50-0 victories over Benjamin and Gold-Burg and finished the season 7-5.
During his tenure at Wichita Christian, Johnson had an overall record of 25-19. Johnson had similar success at Heath Fulton from 2010-2014.
Heath Fulton, like Prairie Lea, had just one victory in two seasons prior before Johnson took over. In 2010, Johnson guided Heath Fulton to a 5-6 record, then in his second season Heath Fulton went 9-3.
Johnson turned the Heath Fulton program around and finished with an overall record of 32-15 as their head coach. Prior to his arrival, Heath Fulton was 1-39 in four seasons of play.
Johnson also coached one season at Clovis Christian in New Mexico and he won a state championship in 2009 at Duncan Life Christway as the OC.
“Every time I step into a program, I plan for and treat that program like I’m going to have a long future there. With that being said, I’m always open to the call of the Lord and where he might need me or my family,” said Johnson. “ My wife also coaches so decisions to move are never just based on just my job. We have a son that is in 4th grade and as he approaches JH and HS, we would like for him, and our older daughter, to have stability at one school for his jh/Hs career.”
Every coach seems to have a calling to the profession and most have been inspired by fellow coaches along the way. Johnson is no different and he has had two people in particular who have provided that inspiration.
“I have two coaches that have had the biggest influence on me. My two offensive coordinators in college, Robert Clyde (from 2003-2005) and Alexander Wright (2006), at Southwestern AG,” said Johnson. “Coach Wright was actually one of my idols growing up as he is a former Cowboys, Raiders and Rams WR. They both very high character coaches that held me extremely accountable on and off the football field.”
The numbers don’t lie, Johnson knows what it takes to create a winning culture. Johnson is currently in his 13th season as a head coach and his overall record is 61-39.
Prairie Lea seems to be the perfect place for Johnson to try his magic in the public school setting. The Indians are no strangers to adversity and if Johnson can turn this program around then the possibilities are endless.
“I consider myself a builder and a rebuilder. Prairie Lea seemed like the perfect opportunity for this. I really felt the Lord placing me in a school like Prairie Lea for this season in my life. Football for me is more than x’s and o’s and I felt/feel like I could really make an impact here,” said Johnson. “I had known the AD at Prairie Lea for a few years now and she was a big part of me wanting to join this community. We also really like the Hill Country Area as we vacation in New Braunfels a lot.”
Prairie Lea will resume play on October 4, 2019 as they host an Oglesby team who is reeling. The Indians play four of their next six games at home and are looking to end their playoff drought.
Johnson is confident that playing at home will help provide a boost of energy for Prairie Lea.
“Playing at home probably gives us a little bit more confidence as we know we will have more community when we are playing in town.”
Changing the culture of a program is something that takes time and it doesn’t begin at the varsity level.
When you look at the programs across the state who have consistent success, it’s because the kids in elementary and junior high have bought in and understand what’s expected of them before they enter high school.
Johnson is fully aware of this concept and believes that with time he can implement that mindset at Prairie Lea and turn the Indians into playoff contenders.
“Coaching staff stability, continuous buy in and improvement of our JH programs across the board are what it’s going to take to get Prairie Lea in playoffs.”