Eagle Point fills AD, football voids
Sometimes it’s just a matter of who you know and timing, at least that has been the experience in recent weeks at Eagle Point High School.
Within a matter of days, the Eagles stand to have their respective hires for their athletic director and head football coach on hand full time in their new roles to wrap up moves set in motion when Seth Womack stepped down in mid-April.
Moving from his administrative position in the school’s Eagle Center, Ryan Swearingen will take over as athletic director, while Erik Johnson has been hired as football coach after spending the past six seasons guiding Class 4A Ontario High.
Swearingen and Johnson each have ties that date back to Ontario High, along with current Eagle Point principal Andy Kovach.
Johnson led Ontario to a 28-28 record after taking over in 2013, earning at least a share of the Greater Oregon League district championship during his past three seasons. The Tigers reached the 4A semifinals in 2017.
“More than anything, the only reason why I was even looking was because of Andy Kovach and Ryan Swearingen,” said Johnson, 37. “I knew them both during their time at Ontario, that’s what started it. You have to start from the top and if you have support in knowing them, that was a huge benefit and definitely swayed me in that direction, for sure.”
Johnson initially had discussions with Womack during the offseason about joining his staff as an assistant coach before the former EP coach ultimately opted to step down as head coach. Womack has since taken a teaching position at Scenic Middle School and will serve as linebackers coach and special teams coordinator this coming season at Crater High.
“I really, truly like Erik, I think he’s going to do a bang-up job,” said Womack. “Erik and I have very similar offensive and defensive philosophies and coaching philosophies, and when we were talking I was like, ‘Man, I want to hire this guy as an assistant.’ Then when I made the move, I heard he put his name in and I was like, ‘I hope he gets it,’ and he did.”
Johnson said the appreciation for what could be done at Eagle Point was mutual, and it became a no-brainer move when the head coaching position opened up.
“Obviously thinking of coming over as an assistant, you already know that there’s good things happening there,” he said, “but what sealed the deal was obviously just the head spot. The timing of everything has been crazy and kind of just meant to be I guess.”
The feeling of perfect timing also carried over to Swearingen, who will be in his third year at Eagle Point but said he’s excited to get back to the athletics side of things after the school decided to make the AD role an administrative position following Womack’s departure.
“I’ve been an athletic director before and a head coach (in basketball) and always involved in athletics,” said Swearingen, who has also held similar roles at Canby and Nyssa. “When they decided to do that, all of a sudden I was like, ‘Hey!,’ and excited to get back into that realm again.”
Swearingen, 40, was not on the interview committee that hired Johnson but he certainly delighted in their decision to bring him into the fold.
“He’s just a coach and teacher that has integrity and does things the right way,” said Swearingen. “He supports students and he’s able to get a lot of students out and involved, whether it’s for football or other sports. He’s well-versed inside the classroom and is an amazing teacher and communicates well with the community and parents and just gets involved. He brings a lot of major aspects that I think will definitely benefit us.”
While Swearingen is busy wrapping up his summer school duties at Eagle Point, he said he expects to be able to focus fully on his AD role in the coming days. Johnson spent 21/2 weeks in the Rogue Valley recently getting to know some of his players and trying to fill out a coaching roster, and said he’s hopeful to roll out of Ontario with his wife and four children on Sunday.
“My family and I are extremely excited just to be in that area, No 1,” said Johnson. “Knowing some of the history and what they’ve done, we’re excited to just continue on what’s been established there to tell you the truth. Good things have happened there.”
Eagle Point finished 6-3 overall and 2-3 in 5A Midwestern League play this past season. In 2016, the Eagles advanced to the state playoffs for the first time since 1997 and finished 7-3 overall, tying for second in the MWL at 5-2.
Johnson said the Eagles will look a lot like they have in terms of on-field schemes while under Womack’s direction, with a run-first mentality in a spread system built to throw the football as a complement.
Beyond that, Johnson said his style has more to do with the experience than the final win-loss tally.
“My philosphy is if you’re trying to coach with the wins and losses, people are going to get burned out and you’re going to burn yourself out,” said Johnson. “That type of stuff comes and goes, it’s more of the process and the family atmosphere and have fun while you’re doing it. People aren’t going to always remember the wins or losses, they’ll remember the memories more than anything. That’s kind of the process we’ll approach as a program.”
Johnson and Swearingen both said they have appreciated Womack’s support during the recent transition even though he’s no longer affiliated with Eagle Point High.
“He’s been nothing but a helping hand,” said Johnson. “Anything I need, he’s always asking this and that, and he doesn’t have to do that. Him doing that just shows the type of person he is.”
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry