Jason Dunnagan Steps Up to Pilot Pirate Football Program


It’s not exactly how longtime Adna resident and coach Jason Dunnagan planned on leaving coaching, but after the departure of KC Johnson, someone had to step up to help ease the transition, and keep the momentum Johnson had rolling into the future.

And who better to do that then a coach that has been at Adna with Johnson — and even before Johnson arrived 21 years ago — and has seen what it takes to run a successful program.

Though it will only be a one-year deal, to give the Pirates and new athletic director Luke Salme time to conduct a proper search, Dunnagan will cherish his one-year ride with the Pirates at the helm of the ship.

“It does mean a lot,” he said. “I’m really proud that I have the opportunity to do this, to finish my coaching career with Adna. Doing it like this. I really want to have a solid product on the field but also maintain the respect from the community that I feel I have.”

Dunnagan was on staff when the Pirates won a state championship in 2009, worked with Johnson since he arrived, and has been an Adna man his whole life.

With his son, Jaxon, and his classmates entering their senior year, Dunnagan wanted to make sure that all that momentum Johnson had built didn’t get squashed by a rushed hire as spring ball and summer workouts began.

The Pirates have been in a reload the past couple of seasons, building a state contender to last with an incredibly young squad in 2021. Though Dunnagan will only be around for 2022 as the head coach, he’s not taking the season lightly.

“I am feeling the pressure there,” Dunnagan said. “KC has built a program, and I’ve been alongside him for his entire 21-plus years here. I have as much pride and ownership in the program as he does, even though it started with him. Continuing his legacy is really important to me. I’m not going to pretend I’m KC, but I’m going to follow the foundation he’s left here. Obviously it works.”

And that will be the key. Dunnagan won’t mix things up too much, he says it wouldn’t be fair to the kids to have to go through that process twice in two years with a new coach on the way in 2023.

But Dunnagan has seen what works. He’s coached it before, as an assistant. Some things will change, but don’t expect a completely new system.

“We’re going to change a little bit of stuff,” he said. “I am going to make some minor changes, but I don’t feel it's fair to the kids for a one-year deal to completely overhaul everything and have to make them go through the same thing next year with a new coach. It’s not fair to them, and it’s not a recipe for success either. To build a program, it takes three, four, five years. KC’s already done that and it's established, it doesn't make sense for me to change that.”

With Lane Johnson back at quarterback, key skill players like Asher Guerrero, Jaxon Dunnagan, and Luke Mohney returning to the fold, and three seniors on the line, Jason Dunnagan is hoping everything comes together when the fall rolls around.

“I am feeling the pressure a little bit,” Dunnagan said. “But I’m going to try and sit back and enjoy the ride. I love football, I love the game, I love strategy, I love competing in this league. What better place to get to do your first head coaching gig than the best league in the state.”