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Herndon High School ended its month-long search for a new football coach last Monday with the hiring of Jeremiah Davis, who served as head coach at West Potomac High School the last two seasons. Davis replaces Brian Day, whose contract was not renewed after two seasons in charge.

Among the six other candidates he interviewed for the job, Herndon Director of Student Activities Jonathan Frohm gravitated toward Davis’s youthful enthusiasm and football pedigree.

“Often times you forget what impact teachers or coaches can have on kids, and somebody who steps in there with a smile on his face instantly puts everybody at ease,” Frohm said. “His football background also stuck out with me, playing for Dick Adams and then coming out of a program like Penn State. And then looking at his resume he put some time in staying committed to teaching and coaching in Fairfax County.”

Davis, a former standout at Annandale High, played defensive line for Coach Joe Paterno at Penn State from 2000 to 2004. He was an assistant coach at Annandale from 2005-2011 while also coaching one season at Bowling Brook Preparatory School in Keymar, Md.

Davis, 31, led West Potomac to a 6-5 record in 2012 before going 4-6 last season. He takes over a Herndon program that finished each of the last two seasons at 1-9.

“They’ve definitely got guys,” said Davis, who first met with his team last Wednesday. “It’s just a matter of putting a plan together and executing it and making sure they understand the goals that we want to get across. We’re going to bring a systematic way of playing football and hopefully build the confidence in these kids to get it rolling.”

The Hornets will return a trio of seniors that could spark a productive offense next season. Running back Lamik Bumbrey rushed for 1,378 yards and 11 touchdowns last fall, while quarterback Ryan McLaughlin threw for 1,261 yards and 13 touchdowns. Conner Johnson, a 6-foot-4 wide receiver, should remain a reliable target in the passing game.

Davis sees his new team’s biggest concerns on the defensive side of the ball, an area where he offers plenty of experience and expertise.

“First of all we’re going to play good defense,” Davis said. “You can get caught up in all these new offenses — the spread, Wing-T and all of that — but we’re going to be based in good fundamental defense, and it will start there.”

Davis and his wife, who teaches at Annandale, plan to move from their current Springfield home to a more convenient location between Herndon and Annandale. Off the field, Davis will teach special education next year at Herndon. On the field, he aims to put the Hornets back in the win column.

“We want to dominate our out-of-conference schedule and then steal a couple of key victories in the district and make a run back to the playoffs,” Davis said. “Our goal is to get to the postseason and to make sure that our guys are disciplined and understand their role within the team and play some good football and be good students.”

neilerson@fairfaxtimes.com