It would be hard to imagine a more excited high school football coach heading into the 2018 season than Shaun King.
The 38-year-old Johansen High graduate just landed his dream job — head coach at Hughson High School.
"I love the community," he said. "Small-town football is unbelievable. It's everything you hear about. The town shuts down on Friday night. I can go to the coffee shop on Saturday morning and they'll drill you about why you didn't do this or why you did that. ... The alumni out there on their lawn chairs watching practice during the week."
King was given the reins to the program after Vince Brown decided to step away to start a family after two years as head coach.
A 1998 graduate and former assistant coach at Johansen High (2000-2006), King is no stranger to the Hughson program. After taking time away from the sidelines to start his own family, he returned to coach at Hughson, where he assisted the varsity program for a couple of years before taking over the 2016 junior varsity team, which went 4-6.
When an offensive coordinator position opened last year under his good friend Lonnie Statzer, head coach at Waterford High, he made the leap.
"I always wanted to call my own plays," King said. "I made sure I didn't leave Hughson on bad terms."
How could he? While he was at Waterford, his son remained as ball boy at Hughson, where his wife teaches and coaches at Emilie J. Ross Middle School. He and Melinda also have a young daughter.
When King discovered Brown was leaving, he raised his hand, and rose above the rest of the candidates.
"It was quite a process," he said. "Quite a few people applied."
He returns to a school with a coaching staff that will remain intact.
"It's a great situation for me as my first year as varsity head coach and knowing the staff for all these years," he said. "I have a great relationship with the administration. It's great to have a supporting staff behind you."
Two of his biggest supporters are former legendary Hughson coaches — Reyn Franca and Todd Sevick.
King coached under Sevick during his days at Johansen, and on Thursday spent a couple of hours on the phone getting some advice into running his own program. He also has close ties to Modesto coaches Brad Taylor (offensive coordinator, Modesto) and Jason McCoy (head coach, Gregori).
In fact, he played quarterback at Johansen with McCoy, who last year led Gregori to an undefeated regular season and Modesto Metro Conference title, and a victory in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.
King also has familiarity with his players, and a starting quarterback in junior Steven Morris, who will run his new coach's spread offense as the Huskies try to compete in the always tough Trans-Valley League. Morris is expected to be on display at three upcoming passing camps/tournaments in Modesto.
"Our seniors ... I coached them when they were freshmen and sophomores as JV," he said. "I've watched them grow as players and becoming young adults."
At a recent team meeting, they asked King to regrow the full beard he had during his first stint with the Huskies.
King said it's coming back, but with a little more gray.
"I told them it was because of them," he laughed.
PREP FOOTBALL NOTES — The 45th annual Central California Lions All-Star Football Game is Saturday at 7 p.m. at Tracy High School’s Wayne Schneider Stadium. Tickets are $10. The south team, coached by Hilmar's Frank Marquez, is made up of players from Stanislaus and Merced counties. The North, which leads the series 24-18-2, is made up of players from San Joaquin, Tuolumne, Calaveras and Amador counties. It's coach by Lincoln of Stockton's Anthony Martinez.