Jimmy Williams feels like he has the head coaching position he’s been waiting for at West Johnston High School.
Williams, who spent 14 years as East Wake’s head coach, has spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach and defensive coordinator at West. He won two conference championships at East Wake and was a two-time league coach of the year.
He replaces Randy Ragland, who accepted the head coaching position at Fairmont High School earlier this week.
“I couldn’t be more excited,” Williams said. “The administration at West Johnston is dynamic and having coached under Randy and with these kids, the transition is going to be quick and easy. I’m just ready to help the program take the next step forward.”
West was 7-4 and a playoff team in 2011, but struggled to a 3-7 mark this season with a slew of first-year varsity players.
“We are excited for him to have the opportunity to continue working with the football program in this new role,” said West principal Paula Coates of Williams.
Williams, 45, was the offensive line coach for Leesville Road in 2010, during a time when the Pride’s growth as one of the area’s top rushing teams and winningiest teams began.
“I went to work with good people at Leesville: David Green and Chad Smothers (a former assistant under Williams),” Williams said. “If you can win at Leesville, a place where they’ve spent a lot of time implementing the right thing, you can win anywhere. It starts with a dynamic principal and having kids that understand what it takes.”
He said he used his stint as an assistant as both schools as a chance to step back and examine what he’d try to do better when he took another head coaching position.
“It was nice to step back and not be the face of a program,” Williams said. “Just having my focus on coaching one position or area. Being a guy who the head coach just said, ‘Hey, I need you to do this or coach these guys.’”
Williams said the impact the opening of Cleveland High School, which took the vast majority of its students from West Johnston’s former district, is still being felt by the Wildcat football program and probably would for another year or two, but he likes what he’s seen in his two years in the program.
“When we do get the numbers back, I think the future is tremendously bright,” Williams said. We’ve got the core of our defense back and a lot more experience. You’ll probably see us play kids both ways who can do it. I did it at East Wake and we did it at Leesville Road as well.”
West started nine players on defense last season with no previous varsity experience and aside from standout senior quarterback Justin Carroll, the offense was nearly as inexperienced.
“The bottom line is we gave up too many points and didn’t score enough points last year,” Williams said. “We didn’t use the youth as a reason for our problems. … Our goal now is to get more and more kids to understand what real work ethic is and that you can always find ways to improve.”