When a high school football team starts its season every August, they hope to be successful.
Of course, that’s a relative term. For schools accustomed to winning, nothing less than a conference championship will do. Orange High has already gained a share of the Big 8 Championship.
That started with a solid foundation which was created in 2008, when Pat Moser was hired as head coach. After several disappointing seasons, Moser now has led the Panthers to four consecutive double-digit win seasons, a first in school history.
Cedar Ridge started this season thinking they would have a big name coach in its corner. Steve Johnson hired to replace Clay Jones, who wanted to focus on his duties as head basketball coach at CRHS.
Johnson fit the bill of a coach that could revive Cedar Ridge football, which hasn’t made the playoffs since reaching the 2-AA Eastern Regional Championship Game in 2010. He had won two state championships at Burlington Cummings, and had been an assistant for three others.
The hiring mirrored what Moser’s hiring at Orange in 2008. Both had coached previously in Alamance County, both had won state championships at their respective schools (Moser at Graham, Johnson at Cummings) and both resigned after health concerns.
Moser had time to recover. Evidently, Johnson did not.
Johnson suffers from Guillain-Barre Syndrome, which causes fatigue and numbness. He suffered a setback just a few days in August workouts that sources close to the team remain tight-lipped about. Johnson abruptly turned the head coaching reigns over to offensive coordinator Scott Loosemoore. Weeks went by without the team even hearing from Johnson until he resigned in mid-September. He never coached a game at Cedar Ridge.
The hopes for building a new foundation had not only crumbled, but the Red Wolves were left scrambling to keep what they already had in place.
Loosemore was the third Red Wolves football coach in the last three years. A former head coach at Eastern Guilford and assistant at Elon and North Carolina A&T, Loosemore isn’t clear if he will get the permanent job.
During the 2000s, Cedar Ridge was the epitome of coaching stability. Longtime Stanford Middle School football coach Lou Geary built the program from the ground up starting in 2002. Eight years later, they played for the 2-AA Eastern Regional Championship under Joe Kilby.
It’s been particularly difficult for varsity players like quarterback Peyton Pappas, who had to work under three different coaches in three years.
Now, the Red Wolves are looking for a new path. Again. Exactly who will take them there is anyone’s guess.
For now, Cedar Ridge can only focus on Friday night when they face Northern Vance. A win will put their mark at 5-6, which should be good enough for a birth in the 3-A playoffs.
After the Vikings started the Big 8 portion of its schedule with a 35-34 victory over Oxford Webb, they’ve lost four straight.
By the time 2016 rolls around, Cedar Ridge will likely have to start over again. Pappas, Marquez Hunter (out for the Northern Vance game), Dahnte Scott, Lee Fields, Grady Pritchard and Tyreq Jennings are all seniors.
That’s all in the future. Cedar Ridge has a chance to start putting its new foundation in place on Friday night, and that starts with making the playoffs.