Thursday evening, Henry Johnson, who has been the head football coach at West Bolivar High School since 2000, officially became the head football coach at Clarksdale High School.
During Johnson’s coaching tenure at WBHS, he led the Eagles to 13 straight playoff appearances and authored a career record of 142-32 for an impressive .816 winning percentage. More importantly, he led the Eagles to 10 straight region championships and two 2A State Titles (2007, 2011). Along with his coaching tenure, Johnson also played football at WBHS for the late Leland Young and was a member of the Eagles 1989 team that went 12-3 and advanced to the 3A State Championship game where the team lost to Magee 7-6.
Johnson, 39, said the decision to leave was one he needed to make.
“I had to make the decision,” Johnson said. “It was a tough decision for me to make, to leave my hometown of Rosedale, but I had to move on to a bigger challenge.”
Johnson will be leaving for a bigger school, as Clarksdale High School is 5A, while West Bolivar is 2A. Clarksdale has a storied history of its own winning three 4A State Championships (1997, 1998 and 2001) and appearing in the playoffs 26 total times in 4A and 5A. Clarksdale’s program has been down as of late, recording four losing seasons over the last five years.
“Clarksdale has a rich tradition just like Rosedale (West Bolivar) did when I took over the program,” Johnson added. “There’s also less duties and less responsibilities than what I’m doing here.”
Johnson’s ultimate goal will be to lead the Wildcats to the 5A State Championship. Johnson said his coaching career has been a dream come true.
“I feel blessed to be able to have that opportunity,” Johnson said. “I never thought in a million years that I would have been the coach at West Bolivar. Then, I never thought in a million years I would be the head coach at 5A Clarksdale. I just thank God that I have the opportunity to do that.”
West Bolivar High School Athletic Willie Thomas said Johnson will be missed in Rosedale.
“He’s done a lot for the program,” Thomas said. “He did a great job with the kids, great motivator, two state championships, I don’t think we can replace him. He will be hard to replace when it comes to that part of it. He meant a lot to our program. Myself, personally, I hate to see him go, but at the same time I have to support him in what he’s doing. It’s a decision he made. I wish him the best of luck. I know he’ll do a good job, because he’s a hard working young man.”
Thomas said a decision on the new football coach for West Bolivar hasn’t been made yet.
Thomas said a strong work ethic is the key for whoever takes over the program.
“The next person that comes in will have to work harder,” Thomas said. “I think we’ll be in more of a rebuilding year. The next person that comes in will have to work extremely hard.”
Johnson said West Bolivar and the Rosedale community will always be near and dear to his heart.
“West Bolivar has been great to me and they pretty much gave me everything that I asked for,” Johnson added. “I appreciate every thing they were able to do for me here.”