Hunter Jenks has the opportunity he’s worked for his entire coaching career and it comes at one of two schools that hold a special place in his heart.
Jenks, a 2002 graduate of Wake Forest High School (then Wake Forest-Rolesville) was officially announced as the new head football coach at South Johnston High School on Jan. 6.
He replaces Shane Dular who resigned in December. South was 2-9 last season.
“Being a head football coach is a career goal I’ve had for along time,” Jenks said. “For it to happen at South Johnston means a lot more to me because it’s where I had my first job in teaching and the people here are some of the best I’ve been around.”
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After graduating from Wake Forest High School (then Wake Forest-Rolesville) in 2002, Jenks, 29, played on the offensive line at Elon University. The coaching influences he had at Elon and at WFR made the greatest impact on his development and desire to get into coaching. He lists former Wake Forest basketball coach and athletic director Chuck Hess, former Wake Forest football coach Ron Hales, current Wake Forest head coach Reggie Lucas, Keith Caton (who was the strength and conditioning coach Jenks played under at Elon College and is now the Associate Director of Athletic Performance at Baylor University) and Henry Trevathan Jr. (another former Elon coach) as his leading influences.
Jenks got his start in football coaching at South Johnston in 2007, then coached at Wakefield for a year before becoming the defensive coordinator at Corinth Holders in 2010. He was South’s offensive coordinator in 2011 and the defensive coordinator last year. He considers himself more of an offensive coach considering his background as an offensive lineman.
“South Johnston is just a good mix of people,” Jenks said. “They’re all good, hard-working, honest people. Everybody here cares about the kids from the teachers to the administration to the parents. They all have the kids’ best interests first in their minds.”
The Trojans have been one of the area’s most successful offensive football teams over the past five seasons. Since 2009, South has scored 2,040 points in 63 games (averaging 32.3).
But Jenks has already targeted an area he wants to see the Trojans improve on offense: the turnover margin.
“Ball security is something we’re going to improve,” Jenks said. “Two years ago, we went 8-4 and had 17 turnovers in our four losses. Last year, we were 2-9 and made defensive stops at key times but penalties and mess-ups on special teams really hurt us.
“We have to become a more disciplined football team on the field.”
The future could be even brighter, according to Jenks who raves about the current freshman class (the class of 2017). “I really think that freshman class could be as good as any we’ve had,” he said. “That includes two great classes, including the one with Dee (Williams), Patrick (Dunigan) and Josh Barbour (members of the senior class that led South Johnston to the 2009 state 3AA championship game). But it’s potential and we have to continue to develop.”