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New WP football coach Bernhardt ‘ready to roll’ PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Thursday, 07 July 2011 20:19

By Josh Sumner

The Wauneta Breeze


The first order of business in turning around a struggling football program differs from coach to coach. Many head coaches enter new jobs with the analyzation of opponents at the front of their mind. Others dig in by developing a playbook.

Not Justin Bernhardt.

“Recruiting is my top job,” said Bernhardt, who recently signed a contract to become Wauneta-Palisade’s new head football coach. “Coming from the college ranks, it was a big part of my job.”

New Wauneta-Palisade Head Football Coach Justin Bernhardt, at left, shakes hands with Wau-Pal Principal and Athletic Director Troy Holmberg shortly after Bernhardt signed his contract to lead the Broncos last week. WP gets a head coach who has not only led a team to the state playoffs on multiple occasions, but has also coached at the collegiate level for three years. (Josh Sumner | The Wauneta Breeze)


Bernhardt isn’t referring to the recruitment of kids from outside Wau-Pal, he’s talking about recruiting from within it. Getting as many kids to come out for football as he can is his main priority at this point, said Bernhardt.

“I want to bring excitement to this school about football,” said Bernhardt. Taking over a team that has a combined 6-18 record over the last three years, including a 1-7 season last year, won’t be an easy task.

But Bernhardt just might be the man to do it. His strong track record most recently includes three seasons as an assistant coach at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Mont. Preceding that was a two-year run at Wallace, in which he took the Wildcats to the D-2 State quarterfinals each season.

Talking to Bernhardt for five minutes makes it clear — this guy would live on the gridiron if school administration would let him.

“This is small town Nebraska. If you can’t get excited about football here, where can you?” the coach asks rhetorically with a grin.

The scrapping young coach, who sports a shaved head and a goattee, exudes confidence. Having spent five years in the Marines, Bernhardt doesn’t know the meaning of “quit.” Yet, somehow, he remains humble and realistic.

Bernhardt insists that he hasn’t started setting goals. Building excitement and getting kids to come out to play Bronco Football is at the forefront of his mind.

“Obviously, the goal is to be competitive,” said Bernhardt. “I know from my days at Wallace that this team will have a lot of support.”

Bernhardt said he enjoyed his time at Wallace, and added that he loves small town Nebraska. He cites the latter as one of the main reasons he took the job at Wau-Pal.

“There’s no better place in the country to live,” said Bernhardt. “And all my family is in Grant, which is a big plus.” Bernhardt himself hails from Gering.

Joining Bernhardt this season is Ted Shiers, who worked under Bernhardt as defensive coordinator in Wallace. Shiers also coached defense at Perkins County for several years under Al Gaston and Marlin Terwilliger — both of whom took Grant to state titles in the 1980s and early 1990s.

“He’s been around the game of football for 30 plus years,” said Bernhardt. “He has a lot to bring to the table.”

Bernhardt said his teams at Wallace were primarily running teams, which operated out of a spread no-huddle formation. Though early in the planning stages, Bernhardt said he would like to incorporate the same offensive attack at WP.

The offensive-minded field general has plenty of experience with the spread no-huddle offense. Not only was it run during his time in Wallace, but it was also regularly incorporated during his three years at Rocky Mountain College. Having spent his first two years in Billings as the quarterbacks and receivers coach, Bernhardt believes he has a good feel for the system.

“We led the NAIA in total offense and passing offense,” said Bernhardt. In fact, Rocky Mountain produced quarterback Kasey Peters, who threw for over 10,000 yards in his college career, and is bound for the Canadian Football League.

Still, Bernhardt doesn’t want to get ahead of himself.

“The first game will be here before I know it,” said Bernhardt. “I’m excited to get things going. I’m glad to be back in rural Nebraska.”