Imani Christian hires LaRoi Johnson as football coach

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Thursday 20 January 2022 | 5:30 pm


Football coach LaRoi Johnson returns to his roots.

The former Homewood resident was hired to coach at the Imani Christian Academy, less than a mile from his old home. The East Hills private school is a place Johnson already knows well, having coached as Imani’s offensive coordinator in 2016-17.

“I grew up two minutes from school,” Johnson said. “It’s a bit sentimental for me. Wanting to do something in my community played a big part. I wanted to do something for the people I grew up with.”

He resigned from Sto-Rox last month 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 in the past three seasons combined. The Saints under coach Cliff Simon went 2-7 last fall. The team forfeited twice and had fewer than 20 players on its roster, but Johnson said he sees reason for optimism.

“The program was a similar (roster size) when I was there before, and we were able to do well,” Johnson said. “I really believe they are going in the right direction.”

In 2016, Imani Christian went 5-6 and reached the WPIAL Class A quarterfinals. A year later, the Saints went 11-3 to reach the WPIAL Class A Finals. They lost to Jeannette, 35-34, in the championship.

“Imani is a place that I hold dear,” Johnson said. “I understand the kind of kid who goes there.”

Last season, the Saints went 1-6 in the Class A Eastern Conference, finishing tied for last place.

Next season, the Saints will jump to Class 2A, boosted by a new partnership with Propel Braddock Hills, a charter school in the Woodland Hills district. The cooperative allows students from Propel Braddock Hills to play football for Imani.

“I worked with a co-op when I was in 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 understand how that works.”

With Johnson as head coach, Sto-Rox had one of the WPIAL’s top scoring offenses in the past four seasons. The Vikings averaged 42.8 points last year – the second best in the WPIAL – and reached the semifinals of the WPIAL Class 2A with a 12-1 record.

One of Johnson’s first duties as an Imani coach is to welcome former player Kenny Robinson, a 2017 graduate who now plays in the NFL. Imani dons Robinson’s jersey during halftime of the boys’ basketball game on February 1.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris via email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

Keywords: Christian faith

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