Gerard Johnson (left) goes over the game-plan with Caroline quarterback Myles Holmes during a game in 2022.

Johnson resigns from Caroline football to take job as college assistant

by | May 13, 2024 | ALLFFP, Caroline, High school sports

When Gerard Johnson took over the Caroline High School football program in 2022, the Cavaliers had lost 22 straight games. Apathy abounded. 

But the task of rebuilding the team did not take as long as many expected. 

Caroline won five games in Johnson’s first season — including its first regional playoff victory since 1993 — and he was named Battlefield District and All-Area coach of the year. 

Johnson won nine games in his two seasons, which is more than the program’s previous two coaches combined in eight years. 

His tenure will be short-lived, however. Johnson, 29, said on Monday that he resigned to take a job as a college assistant. He did not disclose which program because his hiring is not yet official. 

Johnson said he had an emotional meeting with Caroline’s players, with many tears shed at the news of his departure. 

“I was telling the boys that these past two years probably felt like a five-year span with how much we were able to get accomplished, how close I was able to get to the boys and to the community,” Johnson said. “It felt like it had been a forever thing. That’s why it hurt so much.” 

Before arriving at Caroline, Johnson was an assistant coach at Owen Roberts High in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. The Petersburg native was a standout quarterback at Meadowbrook High in Chesterfield County. 

He earned a scholarship offer from Old Dominion University, playing running back. He later transferred to Norfolk State University. 

Johnson continued his playing career professionally overseas in Italy, Finland and Sweden.

Johnson said his players bought into his coaching style almost immediately. The Cavaliers took on the identity of their coach, who encouraged a physical style of play. 

Johnson noted that his sucessor will inherit a program on the upswing, as most starters on both sides of the ball return. 

Two-time 1,000-yard rusher Vladimir Joacin will be a senior. The Cavaliers are set to return their entire offensive line and top two receivers, including all-district first-teamer Blake Morris, who will be a junior. Defensive end Ty’Eir Williams and safety Malik Johnson were also first-team all-district performers in 2023 and will be seniors next season. 

“The next coach will just have to come in and understand that a standard has been set,” Johnson said. “Obviously they’ll have to put their twist on it, but they shouldn’t have to rebuild a whole new standard. The boys understand how to do things the right way.” 

Johnson said the highlight of his brief run was a 16-8 overtime victory over Armstrong in the Region 3B quarterfinals his first season. The Cavaliers led 8-0 until the final minute when the Wildcats forced overtime.  

Quarterback Myles Holmes connected with Williams in the back of the end zone for the go-ahead score, and the defense held firm for the victory. Johnson said his heart warmed at the sight of the throng of fans that made the trip to Virginia State University on a Thursday night.  

“I think that playoff win gave the boys and the community a sense of pride when it came to football again,” Johnson said. “I go back and look at that video all the time and try to remember those positive moments. That showed me that Caroline is a great community. If the right person comes in and does what they have to do, they will have a great backing.” 

Johnson is now focused on advancing his coaching career. He said his long-term goal is to become a college football head coach. He said his time at Caroline was beneficial to his growth as a leader, and his upcoming opportunity should be a springboard to greater heights. 

“This puts me one step closer to that goal,” he said. 

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