Cousins Randy Davis and Jeff Johnson played youth football in Pierce County in the 1960s. Davis was a member of the Cheney Studs, and Johnson was with the Eastside Boys and Girls Club.
Their teams met once for a game at Peck Field in Tacoma. Neither saw much playing time.
“I remember we walked to the middle of the field,” Johnson said. “And I said, ‘Someday I want to coach football to make sure all kids get on the field.’”
After spending most of the past 35 seasons doing their own things, the cousins have been reunited at Cascade Christian where Davis has been the coach the past 10 years, and Johnson is a first-year assistant coaching the defensive line and wide receivers.
And while Davis has enjoyed many deep postseason runs with the Cougars — three 1A runner-up finishes (2008-09, 2011) and a state championship in 2010 — Johnson will experience something new this week: a state semifinal game in the Tacoma Dome
Top-ranked and undefeated Cascade Christian plays No. 4 Mount Baker at 1 p.m. Saturday for a berth in the 1A title game.
“I know (Johnson) is enjoying the heck out of it,” Davis said. “Maybe it’s been a mental hurrah.”
The two have coached together one other time. That was in a South Hill youth football league in Puyallup in 1980 when their Roughriders team went 6-0 during the regular season before losing in the playoffs to an Auburn squad.
After that, both went their separate ways in coaching — with Johnson easily taking the more circuitous route.
He remained a youth coach, then went off to junior high before returning to his alma mater at Franklin Pierce High School to coach the ninth-grade team (1985-89).
Johnson has also served as an offensive coordinator under some of the best who have ever coached high school in the area, Tom Ingles (at Puyallup) and Dick Zatkovich (at Lincoln).
He was also the second head coach in North Beach’s history (2004-07), and decided to take another chance at running his own program when he was hired at Rainier High School in 2008.
The Mountaineers went 6-4 and made it to the district playoffs in Johnson’s first year. Rainier did not have a winning season after that. And after a difficult 1-8 season in 2012, he resigned.
“Tough community,” he said. “I loved the kids (at Rainier), but when you get people who put in their own agenda, it disrupts what you want to do.”
Cascade Christian and Rainier never played each other during the regular season, but would in spring scrimmage. And Johnson knew the Cougars’ coaching staff well, having coached with offensive coordinator Brian Flattum at Washington High School.
Once Johnson became available, Davis and Flattum began actively recruiting him to join the Cascade Christian staff during last offseason. Johnson repeatedly declined the offer, saying he was burned out and needed a break.
It wasn’t until one night when Davis and Johnson — both 62 — were out by themselves did the Cougars coach bring up a past conversation.
“He said, ‘We started together and we can finish together,’” Johnson said. “And then I remembered when I asked him to coach with me, and he did. So I said, ‘Let’s do it.’”
Johnson’s biggest impact has come on defense where he’s largely been responsible for the next-step development of a senior-dominated group of six regulars — starters Andrei Dyson, Joe Hilbert, Hunter Scott and Hunter Murfitt, and reserves Jimmy Kim and Nathan Wescott.
“Here you sit in meetings and you talk about plays that might be good against a certain opponent,” Johnson said, “and those are the ones we practice.
“This has really been fun for me. These kids are amazing and so responsive to coaching, and so respectful. And it has a lot to do with their parents.”Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 firstname.lastname@example.org @ManyHatsMilles