Smithfield: Sports

Ashley Ennis leaves Triton to lead North Johnston football squad

Ashley Ennis is the new head football coach at North Johnston High High School, leaving the helm at Triton.
Ashley Ennis is the new head football coach at North Johnston High High School, leaving the helm at Triton.

Ashley Ennis is heading back to his Johnston County roots for his next job coaching football and he’s bringing a somewhat old-school, but highly successful, offensive approach with him.

Ennis was announced as North Johnston High School’s new head football coach Tuesday afternoon, replacing Scott Meserve who resigned in December.

“I’m ready to get to work with the kids,” he said. “It’s a big challenge and we shouldn’t expect overnight success. It’s a process, a culture change. But it’s about helping the kids have success and putting them in position to be a good football team.”

He will be introduced to North Johnston football players, who are coming off of a 0-11 season in the Eastern Plains 2A Conference, Wednesday afternoon. Ennis officially joins the North Johnston teaching staff on March 17.

The 39-year-old leaves the head coaching post at Triton High School to take over the position. He was 19-4 in two seasons leading the Hawks, leading them to the Eastern Carolina 3A Conference title in 2012.

After graduating from South Johnston in 1993, Ennis received his undergraduate degree at N.C. State before earning his Masters in history at Fayetteville State in 2004.

His prep coaching career started in 1999 at Princeton High School under Russell Williamson. In 2003 he joined the staff at Triton High School under Joe McCullen where he eventually served as associate head coach and offensive coordinator.

“It’s a challenge to build a program and work with new kids,” Ennis said. “I left a great school in Princeton to go to a great school in Triton and learned a lot from Coach Williamson and Coach McCullen. North is a great small school with great facilities and leadership in (principal) Mr. (Tim) Harrell.”

During his 11-year tenure at Triton, the Hawks averaged nine wins a season and won three straight conference championships from 2010-12.

He was named ECC coach of the year in 2012.

“They’ve had success,” Ennis said of North, which played in the 2005 1AA eastern regional final and made the playoffs every year but one from 2003-2011. “But going back to 2A changed that dynamic, especially in a conference like the Eastern Plains 2A (with Washington, Farmville Central, North Pitt and Southwest Edgecombe and Wilson Beddingfield). There will be some tough sledding but we’ll work to get the most out of the kids that we possibly can.”

Key in that approach will be a move by the Panthers’ offense to the wing-T offense Ennis learned under McCullen at Triton and has been a part of for 11 seasons. Triton ran for more than 3,000 yards last season and threw for more than 1,500, averaging 38 points a game.

“It can give an undersized team a competitive edge,” Ennis said of the offense. “And it can really be a benefit to a team that believes in it.”