Ric Johns' football coaching career has come full circle after the veteran coach was named the new head coach at Wesclin High School on Tuesday night.
Johns grew up in Belleville, but his first head coaching job was at tiny Class 1A school Hardin Calhoun. Two state championships helped put Johns and Calhoun on the map and after coaching stops at Carlinville, Triad, Belleville West and Collinsville, Johns has returned to the small-school ranks.
"I just think it's fun to be back in a small community," said Johns, who will continue teaching in Belleville District 201. "I started at a 1A school in Hardin Calhoun and they were the Warriors as well. I'm excited about working with kids again."
Johns, 56, replaces former Wesclin coach Brandon Murphy. Murphy resigned following last season, his sixth with the school.
The Warriors made state playoff appearances under Murphy in 2007 and 2008, his first two years as head coach. After back-to-back 6-4 seasons, the Warriors managed just one more winning season, going 5-4 in 2010.
They were 2-7 last season.
"Mainly it was because of my family," the 34-year-old Murphy said of his resignation. "I've got two little ones at home, a 6-year-old and 3-year-old, and I was devoting a lot more time to football and things than I was to them --and I didn't think that was right,.
"I still love football and I would still love to coach football again, but I'm going to take some time off."
Johns guided Hardin Calhoun to two Class 1A state championships and also has been a head coach previously at Belleville West and Carlinville. He also had a successful run at Triad's offensive coordinator.
His career coaching record is 166-84 and he spent last season as the running backs coach at Collinsville.
Wesclin High Principal John Isenhower said Johns' experience made him an attractive candidate.
"We had some quality candidates all the way round," Isenhower said. "What led us to Coach Johns was his experience and his success. That jumps out at you pretty strongly."
Isenhower believes Johns is capable of invigorating the program.
"We have a lot of interest in the program right now," Isenhower said. "I'm sure that Mr. Johns' name will intrigue a lot of other athletes and maybe we can get them out and involved in the program."
Johns was replaced as Belleville West's head coach in May, 2011 and the District 201 school board eventually elevated former assistant coach Cameron Pettus to the head coaching position.
"There's a lot of really good kids at Belleville West that I got to know and really got to like," Johns said. "That was pretty hard."
Johns coached at Belleville West from 2007 to 2010 and his teams were 23-17. The Maroons qualified for the playoffs in each of his last three seasons, going 8-2, 5-5 and 6-5 after a 4-5 record in 2007.
Belleville West also had a 15-13 record in the Southwestern under Johns.
"I continued seeking a head coaching job because I wasn't ready to get out of it in the first place," Johns said. "I was looking for a place to coach and I want to retire on my terms. I want to be the one that makes that decision.
"That's my motivation and that's why I continued to look for a job."
Johns is looking forward to meeting his new players and installing a summer program.
"Football coaches really earn their money in the summer, that's where you get most of the work done," Johns said. "I think I'll be able to make a good connection during that time."
Johns interviewed for the Nashville High coaching vacancy last year and checked into several other openings. He was happy to be coaching again at Wesclin.
"I know they're building a new high school (scheduled to open in 2014) and there will be some new things," he said. "I'm going to have to sell the program. I've heard a lot of good things about the community and the kids."