The greatest joy for a football coach is mentoring a son. But it can bring anguish, too.
Mike Johnson coached his oldest son, Brandon, in youth football in Elk Grove, and the relationship is playing out now at Franklin High School. Brandon, a junior wide receiver, made his first varsity start Friday night in Tracy. By halftime, he was in a hospital.
Brandon broke his fibula and tibia on a fly sweep when an opponent rolled onto his leg as he delivered a textbook block.
Brandon was down for 30 minutes, in shock as paramedics tended to him. Johnson and his wife, Gina, the women's basketball coach at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, comforted their son. Gina rode with Brandon to the hospital while Johnson coached the second half of the No. 20 Wildcats' 45-14 victory, which improved their record to 2-0.
Brandon will have surgery today at the UC Davis Medical Center to have a plate inserted, and his father will be with him, equal parts pride and sadness.
"Coaching a son is so hard because it doubles the pressure on him, but it's such a neat thing," Johnson said. "It was hard to watch him get hurt, a Joe Theismann-like break. Gina and I talked as parents and coaches, and the last thing Brandon wanted was for me to go with him with the game still going on.
"And there was a flashback to when he was 7 years old with a scrape on the knee to now, at 16 and growing into a man, and he's looking up at me, giving me this look of, 'It's bad.' But he had this look of, 'I'll be OK.' "
Davis coach Marc Hicks can relate. His son, C.K., tore knee ligaments during a UCLA camp workout this summer and is out for the season.
"You're heartsick because it's a player and even more so because it's your son," Hicks said. "A father knows how hard his son works."
It was already a tough start for Johnson, who witnessed a sobering scene in practice in the week of the season opener, making him as much grief counselor as coach. Assistant coach Jason Van De Pol collapsed from a stroke, and he remains in a rehabilitation hospital in San Francisco as he works on his arm and leg mobility and speech. The players have a "V" on the back of their helmets to honor the coach.
Johnson said he's impressed with how his team has held together.
Said Johnson: "I can tell we have a lot of kids who care, and that means everything at a time like this."
Around the region
Forget any notion that Tyler Trosin isn't fast in the open field. The American River College sophomore from Folsom who played a season at Oregon State scored on a 94-yard punt return, an 89-yard kickoff return and a 7-yard reception to key the Beavers' 40-2 rout of Monterey Peninsula on Saturday.
Taylor Laird passed for 434 yards and five touchdowns, including two each to David Oates and Nick Whitaker, and Cory Nelson had an interception to seal Sacramento City's season-opening 37-31 overtime victory over Sierra on Saturday. Laird's 70-yard scoring pass to Whitaker tied the score 31-31, and a 25-yarder to Oates gave the Panthers the lead. Daniel Harding passed for 390 yards and four touchdowns for Sierra in its first game under new coach Ben Noonan.