Lance Johnson, who guided Scarborough to its first Class A football state championship in 2017, was appointed Tuesday evening as the new athletic/co-curricular director at his alma mater – Portland High. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Lance Johnson has been named the new athletic/co-curricular director at Portland High, his alma mater.

Johnson, 53, a respected football coach at Scarborough High and longtime teacher at Portland High, replaces Rob O’Leary, who held the job for six years. Johnson was approved at the Portland Public Schools board meeting on Tuesday evening.

“The two most important things for me are to extend our co-curricular opportunities to every student, to get more students involved,” Johnson said of his new job on Wednesday. “I think when co-curriculars are an extension of the classroom and they’re taught that way, they can have a huge influence on kids’ lives. They can change kids’ lives.

“And the second part is, I’d like myself, our coaches and our advisors, and all of our students involved in co-curriculars, to be more involved in the community and more of a presence. We need to get kids involved at a younger age.”

Johnson was the head football coach at Scarborough High for the past 10 years, compiling a 67-34 record. Johnson took a program that had won six games combined in the three previous seasons and gradually built a Class A powerhouse. Scarborough won the Class A championship in 2017, earned trips to the Class A South final in 2016 and 2018, and last season reached the state semifinals, losing in overtime to eventual champion Bonny Eagle.

Scarborough Athletic Director Mike LeGage announced that former defensive coordinator Patrick “Packy” Malia will take over as Scarborough’s head coach for the 2020 season on an interim basis.

Johnson’s connection to Portland High is long and deep. All six of Lloyd and Trish Johnson’s kids graduated from Portland High. Lance, their third-born, finished in 1985, then graduated from Bates College, where he played football. After college, he joined Mike Bailey’s staff as an assistant football coach at Portland, a position he held for 21 years. For the past 25 years, he’s worked at Portland High, first as an education technician, then as a teacher.

“This is something I’ve been working toward and when the opportunity came up at Portland, where I work as a teacher and have been part of Portland High School for over 30 years, it was hard to not go for that job,” Johnson said. “It seemed like the next progression of my career. I’ve coached 31 years and I love coaching and teaching, but I felt ready to do this.”

It will be Johnson’s first job as an athletic administrator. He is certified as an athletic director with the state of Maine, with a degree in sports management from the University of Southern New Hampshire. He has been a member of the Maine Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association for several years.

At Scarborough, Johnson was an integral part of the game management team, LeGage said.

“He’s a very thoughtful person and he understands and is very compassionate with students, assistant coaches and other coaches,” LeGage added. “He’s been a leader here, someone others have turned to for advice. He’ll be greatly missed here, not just in football, but to our entire department.”

Bailey said he believes Johnson’s Portland High heritage, combined with his personality, will lead to success.

“His intelligence is definitely there. He’s very level headed. He doesn’t really get emotionally fired up. He keeps himself in check,” Bailey said. “I think he’ll be great as an AD because that’s a great attribute to have, to stay level-headed and to work things out. And he has great communication skills and those have grown over the years.”

Like every other athletic director in the state (and likely the country), Johnson’s days will immediately be filled with discussions and plans about how to conduct co-curricular activities during the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s a challenge whether you’ve been doing this 20 years or it’s your first year,” Johnson said. “We’re all in the same boat where we’re trying to make the best decisions possible with the information we have now and the guidance we have now. And then we have to be ready to adapt down the road as things develop and change.”

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