Friday, August 5, 2011

St. A's Happy to Have Johnson on Coaching Staff

Former Bishop Guertin football head coach Tony Johnson has officially been hired as an assistant coach for the St. Anselm College football team.

"He'll be working with our outside linebackers" St. Anselm head coach Patrick Murphy told the NH Notebook on Friday morning. "We're very excited to have Tony here."

Coach Johnson had been the coach at BG since 1994, and he led the program to 6 Division II state titles in the last 7 years. He stepped down as coach following the 2010 season to focus strictly on being the school's athletic director.

"Tony and I have had a good relationship ever since I've been here" said Coach Murphy, who is entering his fourth season at the helm for St. A's. "Each year on December 1 when I'm able to start recruiting, Tony is always the first coach that I go and talk to. So when he came to me asking about coaching here it was a no-brainer for me to hire him."

As a high school coach you have to coach all positions. But at BG they were always known for having fast, hard hitting defenses. Their linebackers were the key to that, so there's no doubt Johnson is a guy who knows how to coach linebackers.

"When he called me about a job I asked him which side of the ball he wanted to work with" said Coach Murphy, who played his college football at Northeastern University. "He said defense, and from there we just kept talking."

Johnson has built a football dynasty at Bishop Guertin, as they have been nearly unbeatable in recent years. Two years ago in 2009 they had easily the best team in the state and an undefeated season. Last year they were still able to win the D-II championship and go 10-1 vs. NH opponents despite the fact that they graduated 31 seniors and had a rash of injuries (including the best player in the state, Mike Kelly who missed the majority of the season with a foot injury).

"He's a proven winner" said Murphy. "He has not only built a program over there at Guertin, but he has also been able to sustain that success over time, and that's the real hard part. He's a seasoned coach and a professional."

One of St. Anselm's recruits from the Class of 2011 is quarterback Steve Cuipa, who played at Bishop Guertin for none other than Tony Johnson.

"Cuipa has been up here all summer working out with our guys and throwing the ball" Murphy continued. "The receivers on our team seem to really like playing with him. But him being here had no effect at all on us hiring Coach Johnson."

Cuipa is one of six NH players on the current roster for St. A's.

"What we're trying to do here is keep the top NH football players in-state" said Coach Murphy, who coached at Harvard, Bryant University and UMass Lowell prior to St. Anselm's. "We want the players in our state to know that if you don't play at UNH or Dartmouth you don't have to leave the state to play competitive college football. Tony Johnson has a lot of ties to NH high school football and we're confident he'll help us do just that."

Since Johnson stepped down as the football coach at Bishop Guertin, the school has hired Travis Cote as his replacement. Cote is the former head coach at Manchester West High School. However, Johnson has stayed on as the Athletic Director at BG.

"Tony will be coaching for us on a part-time basis" said Murphy. "This is always a tough thing though, because when you coach football it's the kind of thing that you are always thinking about, even when you're not out there on the field. But the BG administration has signed off on it, and they will allow him to remain as A.D. and also coach here for us."

Johnson is one of the best and most respected coaches in New Hampshire high school football. He had a great thing going at Guertin, but he is clearly a guy you could see coaching college ball down the road. And since he's a Manchester resident it does seem like a perfect fit.

"We will only have 6 seniors this year" Coach Murphy concluded. "But we have a lot of good players coming in, and now with Coach Johnson being here I really feel like we're headed in the right direction."

Bishop Guertin kicks off their season on September 2 at home vs. Pinkerton Academy. St. Anselm meanwhile opens their 2011 campaign the following day at home vs. Kutztown University.

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