Imani Christian to pick up pace with coach LaRoi Johnson back
Friday, August 19, 2022 | 12:01 PM
Producing a winning football program at Imani Christian isn’t an impossible dream. Coach LaRoi Johnson knows it because he was there in 2017.
The Saints finished a point away from grabbing the WPIAL Class A crown from eventual state champion Jeannette. Things have changed since Johnson, who was the offensive coordinator that season, left to coach Sto-Rox.
After making the playoffs again in 2018, Imani has fallen on hard times, finishing 4-22 over the past three seasons. Johnson, who returns to the school after leading Sto-Rox to a 37-9 record and two appearances in the WPIAL finals, is ready to get things back on track.
Success for the school is important for Johnson, who grew up in Homewood not far from Imani’s campus.
“It’s like home to me,” Johnson sad. “I grew up two minutes from Imani Christian Academy. I have an understanding of what the place is. It’s a special place. I enjoy working there and coaching there, and the kids I’m able to interact with are special.”
Imani will try to get off to a good start when it opens with the Linsly (W.Va.) school at home.
The Saints will see some new challenges this season as the new two-year enrollment cycle put Imani in Class 2A. While Imani was in Class A’s toughest conference for years, annually playing Jeannette and Clairton, its new landing spot won’t be much easier.
The Saints will be in a conference with WPIAL champion and PIAA runner-up Serra Catholic and Steel Valley, which made the WPIAL semifinals last season. In addition, Imani will have to face off with Apollo-Ridge, Burrell, Derry, Ligonier Valley and Yough.
Johnson said the Saints have 25 to 30 players out for the team. That is a big improvement over last season, where Imani only had 20 players and was forced to forfeit games due to low numbers.
Wide receiver Chevon Allen, LB/WR David Compton, LB/TE/QB Dayshaun Burnett and CB/S Isaiah Arrington will on be counted on to contribute for the Saints. Johnson believes Imani has the mix to cause problems for opponents on both sides of the ball despite being a young group.
“We’re going to play fast, physical and downhill,” Johnson said. “We are going to play at an up-tempo place. We are going to make plays and have an aggressive team. We are going to be young and be able to make plays. If you can make more plays than you give up, you can put yourself in the win column more often than not.”
Imani in the past has been referred to as having a culture of gladiator football, as most of its players have to play both ways. Johnson says he is preparing the kids for a heavy workload by focusing on tempo.
“We practice at a pace that’s fast,” Johnson said. “We try to transition well in and out of drills and everything we do with a tempo to it. It’s having an understanding of having a place to go. If you’re somebody important, you need to be on time in a timely fashion.”
Coach: LaRoi Johnson
2021 record: 2-7, 1-6 in Class A Eastern Conference
All-time record: 33-47-0
Date, Opponent, Time
9.2 at Brentwood, 7
9.9 South Allegheny, 7
9.16 at Steel Valley*, 7
9.23 Serra Catholic*, 7
9.30 Burrell*, 7
10.7 at Apollo-Ridge*, 7
10.14 Derry*, 7
10.21 Ligonier Valley*, 7
10.28 at Yough*, 7
• Imani Christian plays at Graham Field in Wilkinsburg.
• Saints linebacker Dayshuan Burnett has offers from UMass, Pitt, West Virginia and Akron.
• Imani Christian became a member of the WPIAL in 2012.
• Imani’s only conference win in 2021 was a 14-7 victory over Jeannette.
Note: Due to publishing scheduling conflicts, the preview for Allegheny Conference team Serra Catholic will appear on Trib HSSN next week.
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