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Stallions coach okay after dirtbike accident

Wendy Alexander/Madera Tribune File Photo

Madera South head coach Matt Johnson congratulates Jesse Ford (11) and Marvin Brewer (33) during a game last season. Johnson is recovering nicely after a dirtbike accident a couple of weeks ago.


Madera South football coach Matt Johnson is no stranger to danger. One of his favorite pastimes is taking his dirtbike and running through some off-road trails.

Unfortunately, due to what he calls “operator error,” Johnson ran one too many runs on Dec. 6 and suffered several broken ribs because of it.

“I was in a tricky spot,” Johnson said. “I have been there before, but I would have been suited up. I didn’t have my flak jacket on. I always wear a helmet. I had one ride to go. I went on a trail that was very technical. It was in and out of a canyon. It was steep, treacherous stuff. I went by myself and shouldn’t have been in that area alone.

“I got wrapped on a downhill. It was sketchy. I bailed. It was either jump or ride my bike through a fence. I bailed off the bike. As soon as I landed, I knew I broke some ribs. I realized there was nobody around and was about two miles out.”

Johnson has been riding bikes since he was a little kid.

“My parents got us minibikes when we were little kids,” he said. “They weren’t too interested in us being on the streets. I’ve had dirt bikes for most of my life. These bikes are more specific to enduro motocross. They are built for cross country.”

He enjoys rides at off-road parks, including Carnegie near Tracy, where he had his accident.

“You can ride in the middle of the nowhere, but California has several off-road parks,” Johnson said. “The one I like to go is called Carnegie. It’s in the foothills above Tracy. The parks are built for off-road enthusiasts and are built like snow skiing parks like blue diamond, black diamond and that gives you a reading of the trails.”

However, on that last run, Johnson made too many mistakes to overcome.

“It was operator error,” he said. “When I was laying there on the side of the mountain trying to get my breath, I was thinking I did everything wrong. Out of just sheer confidence, I figured I had a little gas left and didn’t want to bring it home loaded. I tried to burn a little gas off before it was time to leave the park.”

After laying for a while, Johnson willed himself back up and, eventually, got back on his bike to head back to camp where he received help.

“The spirit of sports and athletics, if I wasn’t with the kids, there’s no way I would have lifted that motorcycle up and gotten back on,” he said. “I would have just laid there and hoped someone would have spotted me. I was stuck. I thought I could risk walking up the hill. After I screamed a lot, I lifted the bike back up and got it into position where I could get back on it. Thank God it started. I got back on, went back up the hill and made it got back to camp and collapsed at my truck. There were other riders around and helped me out. I waved people over to my area. That’s the thing about camping, there’s a lot of helpful people. They loaded my bike. I got some muscle relaxers and some ice and I felt good enough to drive home from Tracy to Fresno. I then checked into the emergency room at Kaiser.”

The doctor thought Johnson was crazy to drive from Tracy to Fresno just to go to the Kaiser emergency room.

“The doctor asked why I didn’t get help in Stockton or Tracy,” Johnson said. “I told him I didn’t know what I was thinking. I knew I had insurance at Kaiser and the only Kaiser I knew was in Fresno.”

However, after about 10 days since his accident, Johnson is feeling better and is on the road to recovery. He was excited to watch his alma mater, USC, beat UCLA and is ready to get back to work.

“The doctor has ordered me to get back to work,” Johnson said. “I can handle certain things. I am light years ahead of where I was the first few days. This was as bad as it gets for me. Coming home, my house wasn’t equipped for the stuff I was going through. Right around the time USC beat UCLA, I felt I could get out of the chair, slowly, by myself.”

Johnson’s phone was filled with get well messages and he wants to thank those that wished him well.

“I want to thank everyone who reached out to me and wished for the best,” he said. “I am going to be fine. I want to thank everyone for the prayers and wishes. I’m going to be good.”


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