Nick Martinez wants to establish a different atmosphere for his Johnson High School football team.
The first-year Warriors coach will have portable lights illuminate the school's field in an effort to make Friday night's homecoming game a bit more festive than the usual drab, dusty and otherwise apathetic Saturday afternoon scene.
The Metropolitan Conference contest against Valley will be the first on-campus night game since 2000, when 10 portable units lit up a nonleague game against Oak Ridge. Johnson won that game 20-19 in front of a standing-room-only crowd. The Warriors were a regional power, the only city school to reach the city championship game (also a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I semifinal) in 2001.
The Warriors' fortunes have changed dramatically in the past decade. West Campus opened and fielded its own sports programs, including football (it is 5-1 this season under Nate Harris, a longtime area coach in his first year at West Campus). Also, the opening of nearby Rosemont helped cut Johnson's enrollment (once around 3,000) in half.
Martinez is the fifth coach at Johnson since 2006. The most victories in one season for the Warriors in the past 10 years is three – three times. After Valley, the Warriors (1-5) play Kennedy, which has lost 27 consecutive games, and McClatchy before closing the season at No. 20 Rosemont (6-0).
"I want to give these kids a feeling of 'Friday Night Lights,' to have an experience as we continue to rebuild Warriors pride here, and to get students to come and watch," said Martinez, who played football at Johnson and graduated from West Campus in 2006. "Everyone's excited. We'll have a rally. It'll feel great, because no one likes to sit out here on a Saturday when it's 102 degrees and dusty."
Martinez, 24, heads a team with just four seniors. He took over on July 14 and said he still feels he's behind. The Warriors have just 20 players and were down to 17 entering the Oct. 5 game against Florin because of attrition and injuries.
"By the third quarter, we had one sub, a kicker and had 11 healthy kids," Martinez said.
Johnson fell to Sacramento 70-6 last Saturday, overwhelmed by a more experienced team with larger numbers and faster athletes. Quarterback Caden Voges had seven touchdown passes for the Dragons.
"But there's no quit in our guys, and we hear that from people: 'Man, your kids have heart,' " Martinez said. "I'll stick this out. I'm here because I don't want this program to fail.
"I have so much love for this school and this team. For some of them, they come from low-income, single-parent homes, and football is a positive thing for them, or all they have."
Van Dyke commits – Cosumnes Oaks wide receiver Alex Van Dyke verbally committed to UCLA, continuing the area's pipeline with the Bruins.
Already at UCLA: defensive back Marcus Rios of Cosumnes Oaks, tight end-fullback Nate Iese of Sheldon and defensive end Eddie Vanderdoes of Placer.
Donovan Drive – As goes Donovan Robinson, so goes No. 16 Monterey Trail.
The senior quarterback keys the veer attack, and his two touchdown runs were the difference in a 21-14 win over Davis. Robinson raced for a 64-yard touchdown on the game's fourth play, and running back Trey Nahhas rushed for 71 yards and a score. Robinson has 10 rushing touchdowns.
Monterey Trail, with two D-I section title game appearances under coach T.J. Ewing, hosts Laguna Creek on Thursday and closes the regular season in a Delta Valley Conference gantlet with No. 7 Grant, No. 2 Elk Grove and No. 15 Franklin.
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