BARNESVILLE - From one Johnson to another.
That's the direction the Barnesville football program is headed as Luke Johnson stepped down after eight seasons at the Shamrocks helm.
He will be replaced on the sidelines by Matt Johnson, who is of no relation. He comes to Barnesville after stints at Cambridge and Bridgeport. He is, however, a Barnesville native and graduate, and has served on the Shamrocks staff in the past.
"I'm very excited," Johnson said of his new job. "I'm not sure what the season will bring, but I am excited to be in the position that I am in. The kids are excited, as well.
"Even when I was at Cambridge as an assistant, the first thing I would do on Saturday mornings was look for the Barnesville score to see how they did."
Johnson inherits a program that lost a very well-stocked and talented senior class. Included in those losses were starters at quarterback, tailback, tight end and five linemen on the offensive side of the ball. Many of whom also saw action defensively.
Aug. 24: at John Glenn7:30 p.m.
Aug. 31: Meadowbrook7 p.m.
Sept. 7: Union Local7 p.m.
Sept. 14: Buckeye Trail7 p.m.
Sept. 21: at Shenandoah7 p.m.
Sept. 28: Caldwell7 p.m.
Oct. 6: at Steubenville Central7 p.m.
Oct. 12: at Monroe Central7 p.m.
Oct. 19: at Magnolia7:30 p.m.
Oct. 26: Shadyside
Win 3, Lose 7
"We lost a lot of quality seniors," he said. "But that happens at a school our size. We can't sit back and pout about it. We've got to move on and work hard every day. It's a process, but we're making strides day-by-day."
With a new head coach comes new systems and Barnesville is no different.
"We've put in two entirely different systems on offense and defense," Johnson explained. "The kids are getting accustomed to how we run things. They're picking up on things well and the effort has been there. A coach can't complain when the kids are giving him 100 percent."
Offensively, Johnson said the Shamrocks want to spread the defense out a little more.
"We feel we have some good athletes at the skilled positions," he said. "If we can get the ball to them quickly in space, that will be the best method for our success."
However, Barnesville has already taken a big hit as junior Tyler Carlton (5-foot-11, 190) was supposed to be the top tailback and middle linebacker. However, his status is unknown after a non-football related injury he suffered this summer.
"That was a huge setback for us because he was in the middle of our plans on offense and defense," Johnson acknowledged. "We don't have a lot of depth, so that is something that we will have to overcome.
"On the bright side, if it had to happen, it's a good thing that it happened when it did. That gives us some extra time to figure out what we're going to do."
With Carlton sidelined indefinitely, the Shamrocks were forced to move senior Kyle Yaquinta (5-10, 210) from quarterback to the backfield in their one-back set.
Yaquinta was battling sophomore Isaac McGee (5-8, 135) for the starting quarterback nod before the switch.
Freshman Dylan Burkhart (5-10, 165) will serve as a backup at both positions.
Also listed as running backs are senior Brennen Collette (5-8, 150); sophomore Jamie Wells (5-9, 165); and freshmen Sonny Fluharty (5-9, 145), Hobie Howiler (5-3, 135), Daniel Brown (5-9, 140), Colton Strauss (5-8, 140) and Spencer Lake (5-8, 140).
The receivers is where Johnson said his team's strength lies.
"That's definitely our strong point," he said.
He added that seniors Jacob Anderson (6-0, 140), Brandon Burkhart (6-1, 180) and Colton Pritchard (5-9, 155), along with junior Kyle McIntire (6-0, 145) are ''all very good athletes.''
"We feel that if we can get the ball in space quickly that they are capable of making some big plays for us," Johnson said. "We'll definitely take our chances via the airways. We've got to be creative on offense in how we get the ball to our skilled people."
Burkhart is listed as a tight end, while Anderson, Pritchard and McIntire are wideouts. Also listed as a wideout are senior Chase Huntsman (6-1, 180); juniors Austin Singleton (5-6, 130) and David Stewart (5-7, 120); sophomore Collin Wilson (5-4, 115); and freshmen Joey Burkhart (6-0, 155) and Dalton Turner (5-8, 130).
But, to be a good passing team means that the offensive line has to do its job.
"We have a very smart group of guys on the line," Johnson continued. "They are a little inexperienced, but their smartness is their strength.
"We'll go as far as they can take us. They have a lot of work to do, but they are a very hard-working group of guys."
He was referring to juniors Zach Houston (5-11, 230), Kyle Devine (6-0, 240), David Brown (5-10, 235) and Brandon Collins (5-11, 210), and sophomore Mitchell Wells (6-0, 260).
Houston will line up at left tackle, with Brown beside him. Devine is the right guard, with Collins outside his shoulder. Wells will anchor the line at center.
Also in the mix in the trenches are juniors Josh Shnegg (5-7, 160), Joey Fuller (6-2, 230), Kody Zack (5-7, 240), Paul Sheppard (6-0, 255) and Ryan Myers (5-10, 330); sophomore Christian Eddy (6-0, 220); and freshmen Robert Thomas (5-10, 160), Logan Shultz (5-9, 175), Damon Howiler (5-10, 280), Logan Costello (5-10, 175), Reese McConnel (5-9, 160), Cade Leasure (5-8, 170), Ben Houston (5-7, 165) and Jacob Barrett (5-6, 190).
Defensively, the Shamrocks won't commit to a set alignment.
"It depends on what our opponent likes to do," he said. "We can run 3-man or 4-man fronts. So many teams do so many different things. One team might spread you out, while another might try and run the ball down your throat. It just depends on the situation.
"We want to put our 11 best players out there on the field and adjust from there. We're not the biggest, but our speed will help us create plays. I'm sure we'll give up some big plays, but, at the same time, I feel we are capable of making some big plays on defense."
The linebacking corps of Collins, David Brown, Brandon Burkhart and Yaquinta are a hard-nosed group, according to their coach.
"We don't have much depth there, so we need to keep blockers off of those guys so they can make plays. They are all pretty mobile."
Backup backers are Pritchard, Collette, Jamie Wells, Wilson, Fluharty, Dylan Burkhart, Hobie Howiler, Daniel Brown, Lake, McConnel, Leasure, Jacob Burkhart and Turner.
Manning the down spots are Zach Houston, Shnegg, Devine, Fuller, Huntsman, Mitchell Wells, Zack, Sheppard, Myers, Eddy, Thomas, Shultz, Damon Howiler, Costello, Ben Houston and Barrett.
The secondary is another spot that Johnson likes.
"They are a good group of kids,'' he said.
That group consists of Anderson, Singleton, Stewart, McGee, McIntire and Strauss.
David Brown returns as the kicker and placement specialist, and will also punt. The return guys are McIntire and Pritchard.
"We think that McIntire and Pritchard can score whenever they touch the ball," Johnson said.
The Shamrocks' schedule is the same as last fall.
"It's a formidable schedule," Johnson said. "I wouldn't call it a tough schedule, but it is one that can get you into the playoffs if you win your share of games."
Barnesville will open the season against John Glenn at Muskingum University, but while not overlooking the Muskies one bit, Johnson can't help but peek ahead to Week 2 and his first game at Shamrock Stadium.
"For me, to just be able to walk out into the stadium for the first time as head coach is going to be an emotional moment, especially because it's our first home game in the re-furbished stadium and it's against Meadowbrook. I've been a good friend of the Dowler family for some time.
"Emotions will be high for me that week."
Johnson brings a entirely new staff with him to Shamrock Land. Nick Saffield will call the offense, while Johnson and Ted Hanlon will share the defensive coordinator duties. Rounding out the staff are Paul Jefferis, Devin Nichols, Kyle Gallagher, Cam Butler and Dylan Rogers. Ed Ebberhart is the equipment manager, while Grayson Willis is the student manager.
"They are all good people, good coaches and care about the kids," Johnson said of his staff.