Above: From left, Randy Johnson, Ken Drain, Mark Carson and Joe Parker all attended Rio Hondo Prep and now make up a coaching staff that has guided the Kares to Saturday night’s CIF-SS Northeast Division championship game.
By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer
When the legendary Randall Johnson was forced to retire after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2000, Rio Hondo Prep football coach Ken Drain lost his former coach and ally on the sidelines.
When Johnson passed away last year, Drain lost a mentor and a great friend.
“Oh yeah,” said Drain, in his ninth year as head coach. “I miss him a lot.”
Johnson was at the helm for 25 seasons and won eight CIF-Southern Section championships in 8-man football. At one point, Drain was part of a staff that averaged nearly 27 years of coaching experience.
That number’s gone down a bit, but Drain has an energized staff determined to keep Johnson’s legacy alive.
Among them is Randall Johnson’s son, Randy Johnson.
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“I have known Randy all his life,” Drain said. “He’s a whole lot like his dad. He has the same wit and humor.”
Johnson’s in his second year on staff. He previously coached at the school’s junior high level and came on as offensive coordinator after assistant coach Joe Parker decided to vacate the post knowing his son, wide receiver J.T. Parker, soon would be joining varsity.
“He didn’t want there to be any conflict with his son moving up to varsity,” Drain said.
Parker’s tenure as offensive coordinator was short-lived, but his time there paid dividends.
For two years after moving to 11-man football in 2003, Rio Hondo Prep still used an 8-man football playbook. The Kares made the playoffs those two seasons, but they were looking to get to the next level heading into the 2005 season.
“I thought we needed something more, so that’s kind of why we made this move to change the offense,” Drain said.
Then came a version of the West Coast offense.
“It was Randy’s system and he designed it all,” Drain said. “The terminology and everything was his. Joe went to Randy and Randy taught it to Joe.”
The end result was Rio Hondo Prep’s 11th CIF-SS championship, courtesy of a 10-7 win over Campbell Hall.
That Parker – who now coaches the offensive and defensive lines – stepped aside and left Randy Johnson with the responsibility of calling plays on offense only strengthened the Kares (13-0), the No. 1 seed set to play No. 2 seed Linfield Christian (13-0) on Saturday night at 7 in the CIF-Southern Section Northeast Division championship game at Covina District Field.
Rio Hondo Prep’s strength this season is its defense, which has allowed 73 points all season and 20 in the postseason. At the center of it all is defensive coordinator Mark Carson, who at 33 is the youngest in the staff.
He brings a lot of enthusiasm to the team, and the kids feed off it. Despite his youth, Carson is eager to learn more about the sport and better not only himself but the Kares as well.
“He’s gone to countless number of clinics to learn defense,” Drain said. “Our defense has been the best part of our game for a long time.”
When the Kares have played against deeper, more explosive teams they’ve emerged victorious because of their stout defense. That was accentuated last year when Rio Hondo Prep withstood Riverside Christian’s frantic attack to win, 13-6, and claim the school’s 12th CIF-SS title.
“Mark does a great job studying film and preparing the defensive plan all week,” Drain said. “He’s very good at making adjustments on the fly in game situations, and his enthusiasm is what drives the kids, and they love him for that.”
Parker also coaches girls varsity basketball and varsity softball. Johnson coaches freshman basketball and junior varsity and varsity boys volleyball. Parker owns a dental supply business.
The unusual distinction in Drain’s staff is they all attended Rio Hondo Prep and are back where it all started.
Drain, while a senior at Rio Hondo Prep, coached Johnson when he was in the fourth grade.
“(Randall) coached me when I was in fifth grade through eighth grade,” Drain recalled. “Then when I got into high school at Rio Hondo Prep I was his assistant helping coach little kids, and that’s how I coached (Randy).”
Later, while a student at Cal State L.A., Drain coached Parker when he was in junior high.
“And now I have his son (J.T. Parker),” Drain said. “That’s really been a great experience.”
Unusual indeed, and it started with the legend himself.