East Texas coaches remember W.T. Johnston, and what he meant to high school football

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TYLER, Texas (KETK) — When the 3A football playoffs roll around in East Texas, the first question when you look at the bracket is, ‘Where are the Newton Eagles?’ 

“Newton, they are at a level by themselves,” said Troup head coach John Eastman.

“We were fortunate enough to beat them once, he didn’t like that too well,” said Arp head coach Dale Irwin. “I think he always held that against me.” 

Irwin and Eastman are just a couple of Texas high school football coaches who went toe-to-toe with the Eagles, and got to know their coach, W.T. Johnston. 

“When he would call and talk to you on the phone, setting up playoff games, he would talk to you like he’d known you forever,” said Eastman.

“I can’t say enough about the man, you know, he’s helped me through tough times, and I hope I helped him in some ways,” said Irwin.  “I tried to relate to him on that level, and he was a good guy.” 

Johnston was a fixture on the Newton sideline, and lead the Eagles to back-to-back state titles in 2017 and 2018, all while fighting for his life, and caring for his kids. 

“You knew what he was going through, you knew the battles he was facing, but to stand up everyday and face those battles, your heart goes out to him and his family and the community of Newton,” said Eastman.

W.T. Johnston’s life came to an end on May 11th, but his legacy goes far beyond being a great football coach, and his impact as a man, and a mentor, has reached further, the city limits of Newton, Texas. 

“Behind the scenes, I think everyone of us hopes some day, to have that kind of positive impact that he’s had on his community,” said Eastman.

“That’s what he did for all of us, he made us better coaches, just by competing against him,” said Irwin.

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