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North Johnston tabs Barnett as head football coach

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KENLY — North Johnston has named Michael Barnett its new head football coach, replacing Jonathan Riba as the Panthers’ play-caller.

Barnett had been on staff as a North Johnston High science teacher and helped coach the team part-time, but his Friday nights were spent at Goldsboro High because his son played for the Cougars.

“The deciding factors for Coach Barnett was his vision for the program,” North Johnston Principal Ben Williams said. “X’s and O’s are important, especially when you’re coaching football, but what’s more important is shaping and molding young people and making sure they’re successful adults when they leave us.”

Williams said he received more than 70 applications for the job from multiple states, but he narrowed it down to nine interviews. Barnett made the most sense of the candidates. Because Barnett was on staff, his selection expedited the process.

Williams said the school will hold an introductory press conference with a full coaching staff after students and teachers return from winter break.

Riba finished with a 15-19 record in three years as head coach, including a 3-8 mark this season. Riba came to Kenly four and a half years ago and said the head coaching position was the “best day job he ever had.”

Riba said he resigned for personal reasons — he needed a break and his son who played on the team, Travis Riba, will likely be playing college rugby out of state. Leaving the Panthers sideline will allow him to attend his son’s games.

Riba said he did not coach this season’s final game due to a personal issue at home.