BELLEVILLE, NJ – Jermain Johnson recently has been named the new head varsity football coach at Belleville High School.
Johnson is a 1991 Bloomfield High School graduate. He spent the past five seasons as an assistant coach for the Wayne Hills HS football team, which won the 2016 NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group 4 state title to cap a 12-0 season. Wayne Hills went 7-4 last fall, falling to Old Tappan in the North 1, Group 4 semifinals. In 2015, they lost to Old Tappan in the North 1, Group 4 championship game.
Prior to Wayne Hills, Johnson was the head coach at Paterson Eastside for four seasons. He also was an assistant coach at Bloomfield HS and Montclair State University, his alma maters. Johnson also played four years in the Arena Football League.
“Jermain Johnson is a great addition to the Belleville School District,” said Belleville Athletic Director Marcellino Marra in an email to EssexNewsDaily.com. “Coach Johnson is a coach that promotes intensity, hard work, and accountability. Coach Johnson’s positive attitude and passion for the game is infectious. I’m happy to have Coach Johnson as a part of the Belleville Family. I am excited for the future of the program.”
Johnson is the fifth head coach for the Bucs since the 2008 season, replacing Mario Cuniglio, who was at the helm for the past two seasons.
The Bucs football program has struggled for several years. This past fall, they went 1-9, including four shutout losses, and was outscored 433-92. They defeated Kearny in the third game of the season, but lost the following week to Newark East Side, which snapped a 55-game losing streak.
Johnson is optimistic about turning around the program.
“I’m very excited,” said Johnson about being the new head coach. “I’m very excited at being the new coach. It’s going to be a challenge.”
More than anything, Belleville seems like the right fit to Johnson.
“It pretty much feels like being home,” Johnson said. “Being that I’m from Bloomfield, I think it still is a program that can bounce back. We got to get back into the Pop Warner programs. I think with the alumni and everything, I think we can take care of business.”
In 2016, the Bucs started off 3-1 but lost the final six games to finish 3-7.
Each of the previous four coaches have not last more than three seasons at the helm.
Joe Fischer returned as head coach for the 2014 season after serving as the Bucs head coach for four seasons from 2004 to 2007. Fischer stepped down after the 2015 season to pursue an administrative position.
Prior to Fischer, the other head coaches were Chris Strumolo, three seasons from 2008 to 2010; and John Dubuque, three seasons from 2011 to 2013.
In Strumolo’s first season, the Bucs went 5-5, the last time the team finished with a non-losing record. That season was capped by the 22-12 Thanksgiving Day home win over rival Nutley.
The Bucs went 3-7 in three straight seasons, from 2009 to 2011; followed by 1-9 seasons in 2012 and 2013. BHS went 2-8 in 2014 and 1-9 in 2015.
Johnson said he plans on meeting with the players on Monday, March 5.
Among the off-season objectives, Johnson plans to implement a strength training program and to get his players to commit to it.
Johnson’s main goals are to “take it one game at a time. Obviously, we want to get the discipline in order; getting these kids to realize that losing isn’t everything. We have to get their minds set right, because that’s all these kids understand, is losing, losing, losing, so I want to make sure they are strong. We have to get these kids strong.”
Johnson followed the program and noticed that in the games that they were competitive, the players wilted. “We want to sustain for four quarters,” Johnson said.
Johnson also wants to drum up community support, including starting a youth camp directed by Bucs alumni, similar to the one conducted in Bloomfield every June.