Morro Bay High quarterback, Nicky Johnson, will lead the Pirates into battle for the 2022 season.
Morro Bay High has said, “Aloha,” to a new football coach this season, riding high on a wave of success from last year’s championship team, and the arm of a veteran quarterback.
Robert Dougherty, a veteran coach who hails from Visalia but comes to Morro Bay via Hawaii, where he’s lived for the past 10 years with his family, teaching and coaching football.
“My wife is from Maui,” Coach Dougherty told Estero Bay News before a recent practice. “She spent 17 years in the Valley, and I had to do my time,” he smiles. The family has been back on the mainland for just a months but settling in has been easy.
“This is a very supportive environment,” Coach Dougherty said. “I’ve never seen a more supportive high school, and I’ve coached at four different ones. So far it’s been all good; it’s been very refreshing.”
He takes over a team coming off its most successful football campaign ever, winning a CIF Divisional and Regional Title, and playing for a State Championship, which they came up short on. One things for sure, this team has good bones.
“We are talented,” Coach Dougherty said, “but thin on players; we don’t have a lot of bodies.” He added hat the roster has about 23 kids now but he hopes more will come out the first week of school (starting Aug. 18).
He’s hoping he can bolster the junior varsity’s numbers with incoming freshmen and possibly bump some of the better players” up to varsity.
He sees the team’s strengths in the offensive and defensive lines. “They are smart, bigger kids, and very mobile,” he said.
Last year’s star runner, Dylan Turner, graduated, but the coach likes what he sees at running back. At running back,” he said, “I think we’ll be fine. Nami Hoag is a special running back. And Aiden is a burner at wide out.”
He also has quarterback Nicky Johnson, who led the Pirates’ championship run, along with departed back, Turner. Coach Dougherty knows Johnson is a special player, as he’s seen his kind of talent before.
He’s also got a few coaching openings. “I’m looking for more coaches,” he said, “one or two more guys.”
Coach Dougherty was born and raised in Visalia, and attended Mt. Whitney High School lettering football, basketball and baseball.
“I attended College of the Sequoias,” Dougherty said, “where I played both football and basketball and was fortunate enough to be offered a scholarship to Boston University to play football.”
He’s coached at Corcoran High School, Exeter High and his alma mater, Mt. Whitney. His family includes wife Allison and children Makena, Maile, Madelyn, and Sands, who is a freshman at MBHS this year.
They moved to Maui in 2013 to be closer to his wife’s family. He took a job as an Athletic Director that lasted six years but he missed coaching.
“I realized that I missed what was truly my calling,” Coach Dougherty said, “teaching and coaching, so I took a job as a teacher and head football coach at Maui High School.”
And now the family is back in California and he takes over a program that rose quickly to championship caliber under former coach, Jake Goosen-Brown, who left Morro Bay after three years for a coaching job at Notre Dame Academy in Southern California.
Goosen-Brown should be commended for keeping the program together after the coronavirus pandemic struck in March 2020, and the response put kids learning from home for the entire school year.
The pandemic response also disrupted the 2020 football season, which got pushed back to Spring 2021 but with a very limited schedule.
The Pirates have already held their annual scrimmage against Avenal and were scheduled to open the season last Friday (Aug. 19) at home against San Marcos, in the first of four, pre-Ocean League season games.
Morro Bay travels to Carpinteria Aug. 26 and to Santa Ynez on Sept. 2 before hosting Fresno High on Friday, Sept. 9. That game will usher in “Youth Night” when the new athletic director, Tyler Hoyt told EBN, young kids get free admission and they plan a flag football exhibition.
It should be noted that JV games begin at 4 p.m. and Varsity at 7:30.
Ocean League play starts on the road at Pioneer Valley on Thursday, Sept. 15, according to the schedule posted on the school’s website. They travel to Santa Maria the following week for another league game before hosting cross-district rivals, San Luis Obispo on Saturday, Oct. 8.
How does the new coach find the facilities and atmosphere at Morro Bay High? “Everything is fine,” he said. “The weight room is adequate, and I’m dedicated to making it even better. The practice facility is very good, the support from the boosters and administration has all been good.”