Meet Amarillo Globe-News Men’s Football Coach of the Year: Irvin Johnson
Missing the District 3-5A title sparked a spark for the Palo Duro boys’ soccer program.
Head coach Irvin Johnson knew ahead of the playoffs and under his leadership helped the Dons match their best playoff run by reaching regional semi-final.
The last time Palo Duro reached this round was during the 2009 season, while reaching the third round in 2013. Now take it to that level, Johnson is ready for his team to take the plunge to lead the Donations to their first regional final and beyond. .
During the district, Johnson led Palo Duro to second place in the standings, losing the district title to Amarillo High. The Sandies record 6-0-2 broke the Dons record 6-1-1. The Amarillo District opener was decisive when the Sandies won the district crown later.
Amarillo led with his defense, conceding just three district goals and eight goals throughout the season. Palo Duro was not too far behind those marks, allowing nine goals in the district game and 24 overall.
However, the Dons were by far the best offensive team in the region, scoring 35 league goals and 133 goals during the season. Amarillo High has scored 14 in the district game and 48 on the season.
“I like to play an attacking style of football and that is evident in our formations and in our transitions from our defensive third to our attacking third,” Johnson said. “You can see how our roster is evolving into a more attacking position. It certainly helps in scoring goals on the scoreboard.”
One of the main reasons Palo Duro was so clinical going forward was the attacking talent Johnson had at his disposal. This included Dominique Gomez, Adrian Ruiz and their Jaime Carillo’s top scorer.
The runner-up has contributed 43 goals and 15 assists over the course of the season, meaning the forward has contributed more than a third of all Palo Duro goals.
Add Gomez, who contributed 25 goals and 24 assists, Ruiz who scored 11 goals, as well as team captain Derek Montes who scored nine midfield goals, and the Dons had a formidable offensive presence with which few could compete.
“They fitted in really well because a lot of these guys grew up playing together,” Johnson said. “They are coming here and I just put the icing on the cake.”
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Johnson said this group of players wanted to prove they were a better team than Amarillo High by advancing further than their local rivals in the playoffs.
Amarillo fell to El Paso Del Valle in the second round. Palo Duro went two laps further.
Johnson said once that was achieved they were playing for themselves and for the Palo Duro community.
Palo Duro has overtaken Abilene Cooper, El Paso Bel Air, and El Paso Bowie in dramatic fashion. In the end, the team lost 3-1 to Colleyville Heritage in the regional semi-final, achieving the best result in program history.
Now that the bar has been set in the regional playoff semi-final, Johnson said he has the tools to build on that success and move beyond the regional round.
“In the playoffs, our mindset was state championship or failure,” he said. “Even though we get to that level, I feel like it was still a very successful season.”