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Mark Soto leaving Johnson to become head football coach at Judson

Soto, who led Johnson to a 10-1 season and a district championship this year, will be named head coach at his alma mater Thursday night.

SAN ANTONIO — Former Judson football standout and coach Mark Soto is going back home.

Soto, who led Johnson to a 10-1 season and a district championship this year, will be named head coach at his alma mater Thursday night at a meeting of the Judson ISD board of trustees, multiple sources have confirmed to KENS 5.

A 1991 Judson graduate, Soto succeeds Rodney Williams, who was fired in mid-October after the Rockets stumbled to a 2-5 start.

Judson ISD athletic director Triva Corrales could not be reached for comment Thursday morning.

Soto interviewed for the Judson job earlier this week, according to sources. He did not answer phone calls or reply to text messages asking for comment on his impending move.

Soto, who played under legendary coach D.W. Rutledge at Judson, was an assistant coach and defensive coordinator for the Rockets under coach Jim Rackley from 2005 until he left in March 2012 to take his first head-coaching job at San Marcos High School.

Groomed by Rackley to be his successor, Soto was passed over in favor of then-Kerrville Tivy coach Mark Smith, who coached at Judson for two seasons before moving to Madison in 2014.

“This is a great hire for Judson,” said a source in the Judson community, who asked not to be identified by name. “Soto should have gotten the job after Coach Rackley left. Coach Soto has the recipe, the blueprint, for success at Judson.

“He played for Coach Rutledge and understands that you’ve got to play good defense to win consistently. When I heard that Coach Soto had interviewed for the Judson job, I said, “Game over.’ I knew he had the job. I’m excited and I know a lot of other people in the community are going to be excited, too.”

Soto, 48, went 19-3 in two seasons at Johnson. The Jaguars recorded their first 10-0 regular season in school history this year before falling to New Braunfels in the first round of the Class 6A Division I playoffs. Johnson finished 9-3 and was runner-up in District 26-5A in its first season under Soto.

Judson and Refugio shared the state record for consecutive winning seasons with 44 before the Rockets finished 4-6 this year. It was the Rockets’ first losing campaign since 1976. Offensive coordinator Joel Call was named interim coach after Williams was fired.

Call, who also played under Rutledge, was a finalist to become Judson’s next head coach.

“I knew Mark was applying for the job and Joel Call was applying for the job,” Rutledge said Thursday morning. “I had two players who were just outstanding. I don’t think they could have gone wrong with either one. Of course, Mark has a few more years of experience and experience as a head coach.

“I think Mark is a great hire for Judson. You see what he did at Johnson. He went in there and had a 10-0 season. Those things don’t come by very often. Mark will do a great job. He’s got a strong work ethic and a lot of passion. He loves kids. He’s in coaching for the right reasons. There’s no doubt in my mind he’s going to do a great job.”

Rutledge was defensive coordinator at Judson for four seasons (1980-83) before succeeding Frank Arnold as head coach in 1984. The Rockets went 198-31-5 and won four state titles (one by forfeit) in 17 seasons under Rutledge, who left Judson in 2001 to take an executive position with the Texas High School Coaches Association.

Judson Stadium was renamed after Rutledge in 2006.

The Rockets went 236-36-5 and won six state championships in a 20-year span (1983-2002) under three head coaches – Frank Arnold (1980-83), Rutledge (1984-2000) and Rackley (2001-2011). Judson captured its first state title in 1983, but hasn’t won it all since 2002.

“I think Coach Soto has what it takes to get us back up there,” the community source said.

Soto has a 54-52 career record. He was 35-49 in eight seasons at San Marcos, where he was athletic director and head coach before succeeding Ron Rittimann at Johnson in 2020. His best season with the Rattlers was in 2017, when they went 10-1. Soto led San Marcos to the playoffs three consecutive seasons (2015-2017).

Soto started his coaching career at Poteet High School in 1995. He was also an assistant coach at Seguin (1997, 1998 football seasons), Corpus Christi Calallen (1999), Holmes (2000, 2001) and Laredo United (2002, 2003, 2004).

A former linebacker at Judson, Soto played college football at Missouri Valley College and earned his bachelor's degree in 1995 at the school in Marshall, Mo. Soto also a master's degree in education from Texas State.