Guy Jensen is not a teacher at Metuchen High School. He is a Superior Court officer in Middlesex County.
But over the past five years, through his role as Metuchen’s boys’ basketball coach, Jensen has grown to love the school’s community. And now he wants to save its football program.
On April 16, the Metuchen Board of Education approved Jensen as the high school’s new football coach. The Metuchen football program suffered from declining numbers in 2018, falling to 16 players at one point last fall.
Head coach Michael Warnock stepped down after the season. In addition to his basketball duties, Jensen served on Warnock’s football staff for the past two seasons. He understands the situation, and he wants the head job anyway.
Jensen will continue to serve as Metuchen’s boys’ basketball coach, too. The Scotch Plains native led the basketball Bulldogs to a 14-12 record in 2018-19, the program’s best mark since 2013-14 and highest victory total in more than 10 years.
The coach is confident that he can handle both programs. But he also just has a burning desire to help his adopted community. Hamstrung by those low numbers, Metuchen went 0-9 on the football field last fall, with one forfeit.
“The program was in dire straits,” Jensen said. “I know the community, so I think I was a safe bet to come in and achieve some stability.”
After his hiring in April, Jensen developed a sound political strategy: focus on the grassroots. He reached out to sixth, seventh and eighth grade players at Edgar Middle School in the Metuchen School District. He spoke with coaches and parents in local Pop Warner and spring football leagues. Jensen even encouraged his basketball players to pick up another sport.
The efforts worked. Metuchen had 40 students at its football workout on June 10. Jensen said the Bulldogs are averaging 24-28 students at each workout, which are held Monday through Friday every week.
Now, Jensen has been coaching high school sports for a long time. He started as an assistant in the boys’ basketball program at Metuchen’s Saint Joseph Regional High School in 1999. He understands that it’s easy for kids to attend workouts in the offseason.
The real challenge will be sustaining a healthy roster for an entire fall. But Jensen is confident.
“From what I’ve seen so far in the weight room and in workouts, it’s a different culture,” Jensen said. “That may take time to translate. But it’ll be a different program.”
“There’s only one way to move and that’s forward,” he added. “Whatever we do minus folding will be a complete success.”
The new coach is already laying the groundwork for a sustainable program, too. Metuchen’s new football social media accounts are up to about 400 combined followers. Jensen said the accounts will help show younger players that there’s a healthy program waiting for them at the high school level.
Back in April, collegiate scouts from Fordham University, Bucknell University and the University of Massachusetts came to a Metuchen workout to talk to standout outside linebacker Freddy Krebs. Jensen posted a picture of the collegiate coaches on social media.
“That’s no joke. People will say, ‘Maybe they are serious and moving in the right direction,'” he said. “That’s what we are trying to do as a program.”
“If you don’t show people, how will they know?” Jensen explained.