Imani Hires New Head Football Coach
Football coach LaRoi Johnson is returning to his roots.
The former Homewood resident was hired to coach at Imani Christian Academy, which is less than a mile from his old home. The private school in East Hills is a place Johnson already knows well, having coached there as Imani’s offensive coordinator in 2016-17.
“I grew up two minutes from the school,” Johnson said. “It’s a little sentimental to me. Wanting to do something in my community was a big part. I wanted to do something for the people I grew up around.”
He resigned last month at Sto-Rox after going 37-9 in four seasons. He led the Vikings to the WPIAL finals twice.
At Imani Christian, Johnson takes over a program that went 4-22 combined in the past three seasons. The Saints under coach Cliff Simon went 2-7 last fall. The team forfeited twice and had fewer than 20 players on the roster, yet Johnson said he sees reason for optimism.
“The program had a similar (roster size) when I was there before, and we were able to do well,” Johnson said. “I truly believe that they’re headed in a positive direction.”
In 2016, Imani Christian went 5-6 and reached the WPIAL Class A quarterfinals. A year later, the Saints went 11-3 and reached the WPIAL Class A finals. They lost to Jeannette, 35-34, in the championship.
“Imani is a place that I really hold dear to my heart,” Johnson said. “I understand the kind of kid that goes there.”
Last season, the Saints went 1-6 in the Class A Eastern Conference and tied for last place.
Next season, the Saints are jumping to Class 2A, boosted by a new co-op with Propel Braddock Hills, a charter school in the Woodland Hills district. The co-op lets Propel Braddock Hills students play football for Imani.
“I worked with a co-op when I was at University Prep with Sci-Tech and Obama,” said Johnson, a Peabody graduate who also coached in the City League. “It’s going to be unique, but I have an understanding of how those work.”
With Johnson as head coach, Sto-Rox had one of the WPIAL’s highest-scoring offenses over the past four seasons. The Vikings averaged 42.8 points last year — second-best in the WPIAL — and reached the WPIAL Class 2A semifinals with a 12-1 record.
One of Johnson’s first tasks as Imani coach will be to welcome back former player Kenny Robinson, a 2017 graduate who now plays in the NFL. Imani will retire Robinson’s jersey Feb. 1 at halftime of the boys basketball game.
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .