EUGENE — One of the top football programs in the state heads into the offseason needing a new coach after Sheldon’s Lane Johnson resigned from the job on Tuesday.
Johnson, 52, who had been on the Irish staff for 20 years, was part of four state championship teams and had a 67-10 record in his six seasons as head coach.
“I’m leaving on my own terms and I’m happy,” Johnson said. “We’ve had a good run at Sheldon. Hopefully once they hire somebody else, we can keep it going.”
Sheldon’s season ended last Friday in a 27-0 loss to Tigard in the Class 6A quarterfinals. It was the 11th consecutive season the Irish had made the quarterfinals and their 18th consecutive year in the playoffs.
Johnson said he contemplated retirement at the end of the 2015 season when his son, Jackson, was a senior, but chose to stick around for one more year.
“I felt really close to that class, but I’m really, really glad that I stayed, because we had a great time,” Johnson said. “We made it to the quarterfinals and would’ve liked to play more, but what a great group of seniors and great group of senior parents.”
Ultimately, the grind of coaching caught up to Johnson, who plans to remain at Sheldon as a teacher for at least one more year, two at the most.
“I knew when I took the job in 2011 I was toward the end of my teaching career, and I figured if I did it for five or six years it would be plenty,” Johnson said. “Those five or six years went by pretty fast. Burned out is not the right word, because I’m not burned out. I’m just pretty tired. The whole offseason stuff anymore, the fundraising and having to be at the school for summer workouts. It’s gotten to the point when it getting old is bigger than the fun I have when I’m actually here.”
Johnson joined his brother Marty at Sheldon two decades ago as an assistant coach and helped guide the Irish to state championships in 2002, 2007 and 2009. When Marty Johnson left after the 2010 season, Lane Johnson took over and led the Irish to the Class 6A state title game, which they lost to Lake Oswego 47-14. One year later Sheldon got its revenge, beating the Lakers 13-6 for the state championship.
“I’m sure everybody thinks the four state championships are big, and they are,” Johnson said. “I remember those games and the rings and the trophies. But I remember the kids in those groups more than anything, and the groups that didn’t win state championships. To me it’s more about relationships that I’ve built and the kids that I’ve gotten to know.”
Johnson said he anticipates there will some anxiety next year when Fridays come around and his schedule is open. But with Jackson Johnson now playing football at Western Oregon, and Marty Johnson back coaching in Cottage Grove with former Sheldon assistant Gary Roberts, football will no doubt continue to occupy his weekends.
“My wife, who is awesome, I think she’s worried that I’m not going to have enough to do,” Johnson said. “But I would like to be able to be there for her because she’s been there for me for 31 years as a teacher and a coach. It would be nice to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to go do this,’ and not have to be back to open the weight room.”