CR product Johnson excited as he takes over as Rider boys lacrosse head coach

Brooks Johnson will jump into his first season as Rider head coach when CR opens the season March 22 by hosting Kent Island. Submitted photos

CAMDEN — Brooks Johnson wasn’t taken by surprise when Matt Faircloth decided to step down.

Faircloth, the Caesar Rodney High boys’ lacrosse head coach, had talked about it with Johnson, one of his assistants.

Still, the chance to be his alma mater’s head coach came a little bit sooner than the 26-year-old Johnson expected.

“It definitely came as a shock,” said Johnson. “But I’m ready. It’s exciting. I have a great staff — I really can’t ask for too much more.

“I just remember walking through those halls. Some of the times that I spent here were the best times of my life. Hopefully, I can give that experience to these kids.”

After two years as an assistant, Brooks will jump into his first season as the Riders’ head coach when CR opens the season on March 22 by hosting Kent Island, Md. He was hired to replace Faircloth, who stepped down in January to spend more time with his family after being the Riders’ head coach for the past five years.

Johnson takes over a program that always has high expectations. CR has reached the state championship game three times since 2012.
A year ago, the Riders started the season 13-0 before finishing 16-3 and losing to Salesianum, 14-9, in the state finals.

Only three seasons removed from his college career as a defender at NCAA Division I Mount St. Mary’s, Johnson says he’s ready to take on the challenge.

“For the past two years, I was kind of in charge of one side of the ball,” he said. “Now I’ve got to oversee everything. It’s been a smooth transition. It’s been nice.”

Johnson’s younger brother, Bubba, who also played with him at Mount St. Mary’s, will coach CR’s offense with Brendan Butler back on the staff, as well.

Only three seasons removed from his college career as a defender at Division I Mount St. Mary’s, Brooks Johnson says he’s ready to take on the head coaching challenge.

Junior midfielder Sean Wooleyhand said the Riders were surprised at first when Faircloth stepped down.

“But we love having Coach Johnson here,” he said. “He means business. Being a young coach, he has a good understanding of the game and how it’s played in college. That has a good relationship to how we play because we try to run a college system.”

After graduating some of its top players, CR has its work cut out for it to get back to last season’s level.

Wooleyhand and junior attack Jimmy Cava both return on offense while Myles Lawrence and Jackson Phillips are both back on defense.
Other returnees include Evan McLeary and Zach Davis, who both made all-Henlopen North as specialists last spring, and honorable mention all-North goalie Jacob Stant.

Davis, a midfielder, said the Riders haven’t forgotten that they trailed Sallies only 9-8 going into the fourth quarter of the state finals.

“Keeping that in the back of our heads going into this year, we know we have that chip on our shoulders,” said Davis. “We might not be the best stick-skill wise (this year) but that can always improve. But grit is something you just have inside of you. I think that we have that.”

“That was definitely tough,” Wooleyhand agreed. “But it kind of fueled the fire going into this year, giving us extra motivation to get better. There’s just that feeling that you didn’t get your goal, you didn’t reach what you were working for all year.”

Brooks Johnson may be a first-year head coach but he’s not interested in labeling this a ‘rebuilding’ season for the Riders. He just knows they have a lot of work ahead of them.

“Rebuild is kind of a funny term,” said Johnson. “We have a lot of guys in the locker room who been in the program and they’ve been around us as coaches. They’re excited. It’s their time to step up.

“Our mantra’s always been, ‘always compete.’ It doesn’t matter what the adversity you’re facing, we’re always battling.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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