Farmington--The folks at Farmington High School thought so much of their girls basketball coach that they put him in charge of the entire athletic department following a career that included a state championship, three appearances in the state championship game and 471 wins.
Brad Blew's first job was to hire his replacement. His selection of Har-Ber assistant coach Brad Johnson may have turned some heads at the time. Johnson had no previous experience as a girls head coach.
Returning the program to the success Cardinals fans were was used to didn't happen overnight. However, in his third season, Johnson has Farmington headed back to the state championship game. The Farmington girls will face Star City Saturday at 11am for the 4-A state championship.
So what did the trick? Johnson said it took a special senior class who were a group of wide eyed sophomores when he took the job.
"They've hung in there," Johnson told 5News. "They've battled. They done everything I've that I've asked them to do and I've watched them mature over the last three years and they've turned into great leaders, great team leaders. They've really--every kid's got a special place in my heart but I love these seniors."
One of those seniors is guard Payton Journagan. She admits that the first two seasons under Johnson were rough. The tough times, however, made this season even more special.
"We've been through rough times the past two years," Jouragan said. "Being at the first round of districts and then having him to be with us to go to the state championship has been awesome."
"We definitely have a closeness that we haven't had in the past," Journagan continued, "and I think that's helped us a lot. He's (Johnson) basically been like a second dad."
It's tough to replace a legend and perhaps even tougher when the legend is the man who hires you. Blew's faith in Johnson clearly had paid off.
"Coach Brad Blew built this thing up," Johnson observed. "When he was at the end of his career he offered me the chance to come in behind him and we've put this program back on the map where it belongs."
As for Saturday's game, just call it a test of wills or a contrast of playing styles.
"They've got great ball handlers and they'll sit on the basketball and hold possession for a while," Johnson explained. "We tend to like to play a little faster and it will be a chess match throughout the game."
"We know they like to hold it," Journagan echoed, "and we're just hoping that we can pick up the pace of the game and just get a jump on 'em and just get 'em down early."