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Bulldogs make major changes in coaching
Ceres High School's varsity football program will have a new head coach next season.

Brett Johnson, leader of the Bulldogs since 2006, was relieved of his duties after meeting with site administrators on Monday, Nov. 29.

"I've been here for 20-plus years," he said. "I didn't picture myself leaving. I planned on coming back. It's been such a big part of my life. They want to go in another direction. I did the best I could. I'll hold my head high. I have no regrets. There's a lot of great memories. I enjoyed watching the personal growth of the kids."

Johnson was promoted following 14 years as an assistant with the Bulldogs. He replaced Bret Durossette, who stepped down following a six-year stint in which he led Ceres High to one league title, two playoff berths and a 26-36 overall record. Johnson was the Bulldogs' defensive coordinator during Durossette's tenure.

"I didn't go into the position as head coach with blinders on," Johnson said. "It's the most visible sport in school. I knew I'd get criticized. The people on the outside judge a program based on wins and losses. On one hand, that's correct. On the other hand, you look at the letters you receive from parents that say you turned my kids life around."

Ceres High players learned of Johnson's dismissal at school on Tuesday, Nov. 30.

"I have a lot of them in my classes," Johnson said. "Honestly, I didn't want it to be a distraction. It was never about me. It's about what's best for the program. Bottom line is if you don't produce, you don't stay very long in the business. I want so bad for them to experience success."

Ceres High had a promising start to the 2010 season, beating Ripon 22-15 at Bulldog Stadium.

The Bulldogs ended an 11-game losing streak dating back to 2008.

Ceres High's last season-opening win came against Sonora in 1997.

The Bulldogs dropped their final four preseason games in disappointing fashion.

Ceres High squandered a three-touchdown lead while falling 21-20 to Hilmar.

The Bulldogs had two potential, game-tying drives end with turnovers during their 22-8 loss to Downey.

Fourth-year middle linebacker Hadon Lopez suffered a foot injury against East Union, which pulled away for a 21-7 victory. He didn't return to the lineup until Week 10. Lopez still led the team in tackles (77) despite suiting up for just five games.

Ceres High surrendered 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, including a 35-yard field goal as time expired, en route to a 17-14 loss to Beyer.

The Bulldogs were outscored 240-44 in Western Athletic Conference play.

Zach Naylor (internal injuries) missed the final three games.The junior provided toughness at running back and linebacker.

"We had some hard-fought battles," Johnson said. "It takes a lot out of you. It's stressful. I've been blessed because I have a wonderful wife who's been very supportive."

"Coaches can only do so much," said Lopez, who was also one of Johnson's students when he taught at Mae Hensley Jr. High School. "He's had a big impact on my life. He's like a father figure to me. He's a good person. I give all the credit for my success to that guy."

Ceres High plans to find Johnson's replacement in-house according to Bulldog Athletic Director Glenn Driskell.

"That's what we're hoping for," Driskell said "We'll see."

The Bulldogs' new leader will take over a program which has won just three league titles the past 42 years (1968, 1985, 2004).

Ceres High has made just five playoff appearances and posted eight winning seasons since 1985.

"It has been a struggle," said Johnson, who's had a smaller talent pool to draw from since Ceres Unified School District's second public high school (Central Valley) opened in 2005-06. "Everybody wants to win. They expect immediate results. If we're a one-town high school, we'd be competitive."

Johnson wants to continue to be a part of Ceres High's football program. He was varsity defensive line coach from 1993-96.

"If the new coach comes in and asks for my help, I will," Brett said. "I was never motivated by having a title next to my name. My main focus is being there for the kids. We return a lot of good athletes. The kids coming up from JV will fill positions. I think there's going to be more success than we've experienced the last five years."