After the program’s first winless season since 1985 and the retirement of longtime head coach Robert Maddox, Lee Scott football was in desperate need of a fresh start.
Stepping into Maddox’s shoes as head coach of the Warriors is former Tuscaloosa Academy coach Robert Johnson. Johnson is entering his 24th year as a head coach in the high school ranks and has a 147-92 record throughout his career.
Last Wednesday, Johnson and two senior leaders represented the Warriors at the Alabama High School football Media Days.
Johnson knows that the Warriors won’t be the biggest, strongest or fastest team in the league. Regardless, the veteran head coach recognizes one advantage LSA will have: depth.
“We’ve probably got 25-30 kids that can contribute to any team in our league. … Hopefully we can be fresh throughout the whole game, keep our kids safer, keep our kids more motivated and keep the excitement going in the program—that’s kind of going to be our main focus there,” Johnson said.
Football-wise, the identity of the Warriors is something that will become clearer as the team continues to develop.
“As far as what to expect at Lee Scott, we’re going to be well-disciplined, we’re going to be in shape, we’re going to try and run the ball as much as possible and also throw just like we have had on my other teams. I love being able to throw the ball, especially when teams try to load the box. We’ve got some good athletes that we can get the ball to,” Johnson said. “As far as how we’re going to be, that’s something we’re going to have to find out. We’ve got a lot of new kids; we don’t have very many returning seniors at all and I think there’s a lot of unknowns. The good news is, I think there’s a lot of potential there and I’m really excited about that.”
Joining Johnson at Media Days last Wednesday was senior running back Thomas Whatley and senior center Riley Ketchum.
Ketchum, who missed last year with a torn ACL and has struggled with concussions in the past, will have the chance to lead the LSA offense.
“Quite a leader, quite a great young man … I expect a lot of great things from him. Being a center on the offensive line, he’s got to be the leader of the offensive line and make a lot of calls and work with all of our guys,” Johnson said regarding Ketchum.
Lee Scott is traditionally a strong program. No one knows that better than Johnson. Last year’s 0-11 season was a bit of an outlier in the program’s history and Johnson is determined in not letting something like that happen again.
“Nobody wants to go through a season like last year. It was just a perfect storm. It was a small class and then a small class behind them and then some kids left, some kids got hurt — it just rolled into a bad storm the same way sometimes things can happen in a positive direction where everything starts clicking,” he said. “Losing’s not the worst thing in the world. Everybody needs to go through adversity because you’re going to have hard times. So, I think what I’ve got, and I don’t know this for sure, we’re going to find out, but I think I’ve got a battle-hardened group. And I do know one thing that they do have because I can see it in their eyes, they are thirsty and they are hungry and that’s a tough combination to beat.”
With Johnson putting emphasis on the run game, Whatley, likely the team’s starting ball carrier, will be imperative in the team’s success in 2019.
“It’s been very exciting. A lot of people are playing. … Everyone’s buying in and we’re working hard. I’m super excited for the season,” Whatley said.
Johnson explained that the Warriors will implement an “aggressive four-man front” on defense and a Wing-T base with a little spread offense on the other side of the ball.
LSA will begin their season on Aug. 23 as the Warriors travel to Chambers Academy in LaFayette and will look to capitalize on a fresh start. It's the first of four-straight road games to open the season.