FAIRLAND - Jerry Johnson hopes it's a decision that extends his coaching life by a couple of years.

Johnson recently stepped down as head football coach at Fairland High School, but he'll remain on the staff as defensive coordinator - and will continue to head up the baseball program.

Charles “Choo” Thomas, who has coaching experience on the high school, junior college and NCAA levels, will take the varsity reins.

“I haven't lost any interest in football - it's just going to prolong my coaching life,” said Johnson, who will also continue to coach the junior high with Justin Goins.

Area high school teams start practice Tuesday.

The Owls aren't the only ones with a new head coach - Mitchell Crittenden succeeds Rick Trimble at Commerce and Zach Gardner is now in charge at Afton after Jerry Springer stepped aside.

Most teams will have their first scrimmage Aug. 16-17 with a final tuneup on Aug. 23-24.

Wyandotte hosts Quapaw on Thursday, Aug. 30.

The Owls kick off their season the next night, hosting Porum.

Miami, Grove, Afton, Quapaw, Welch and Wyandotte also have Aug. 31 openers.

Johnson's record over four seasons was 9-32, but the Owls went winless his first year and won just one game the second.

They qualified for the Class A playoffs last season by finishing fourth in District A-6. They lost in the opening round to Panama, 40-14.

The Razorbacks used four second-half touchdowns to nail down the win.

That marked FHS' first trip to the playoffs since 2002.

The FHS baseball team went 23-2 in the regular season but suffered back-to-back gut-wrenching losses to Commerce and Ketchum in a 2A regional.

Thomas' “day job” is superintendent of schools at Fairland.

“It's like riding a bike - it's something you never forget,” said Thomas, who just wrapped up a two-year stint as FHS girls' basketball coach.

He had assisted in football when he first came to Fairland eight years ago. Ryan Cottrell, who was Thomas' assistant last season, has been promoted to head girls' coach, freeing Thomas to return to football.

“Mr. Thomas and I talked about it late in the school year,” Johnson said.

“It's overwhelming to have both responsibilities,” Johnson said. “I can't see this as being anything but good for the kids.”

In addition to heading up the football and baseball programs at Fairland, Johnson also was in charge of the off-season weight program.

“Some of those kids I have year round - that's tough,” Johnson said. “I will still have them year round, but when you are the only one that's on them all the time, it's grating.”

“I'm going from having to focus on everything to focusing on a couple of areas.”

“He's got great experience being a head coach and has been involved with the program the eight years I have been here,” Thomas said. “He will be a big plus to have out there. I wouldn't want it any other way.”