Posted 8/16/16 (Tue)
By Neal A. Shipman
After finishing last year’s football season with a 3-6 record, Justin Johnsrud, Watford City High School Wolves head football coach, sees brighter days ahead for his team.
“We are really excited about this season,” states Johnsrud. “The coaching staff has put a lot of time in since the conclusion of last season to really fine tune both our offense and defense.”
But with only 42 players out for varsity football this year, Johnsrud knows that his coaching staff and players will have their work cut out for them.
“With our youth last season we really struggled in the passing game, which made us very one dimensional,” states Johnsrud. “We revamped the passing game and have put a big emphasis on it this preseason. In order for us to compete with the better teams in AA football, we must be able to stretch the defense with an effective passing game.”
According to Johnsrud, he only has seven returning starters, all of whom will be juniors this season. Although the team will be young, he says the team is returning with a lot of experience and the bumps and bruises that they suffered last year which should really help in the progression this season.
“Although our numbers are a little lower than we would like them to be, the coaching staff feels very good about the quality of the players we will have on the roster,” states Johnsrud. “Football takes a lot of commitment and a certain toughness - it’s not for everyone. But our players have shown over the first few days, they have what it takes. We ask our players to simply get better every practice. Great attitudes and maximum effort will make sure that happens.”
While Johnsrud says that the team has been gelling during their two-a-day practices, he, and his coaching staff, will get their first glimpse of the team during their annual preseason scrimmage against the Williston Coyotes on Friday, Aug. 19, in Williston.
“My assistants have put countless hours in this summer getting our playbooks ready and online, and really done a good job of making sure our players are progressing and understanding their positions and the schemes,” states Johnsrud. “The kids have really been working hard this preseason, and we have a group of players with great attitudes and work ethic.”
The keys to Watford City’s success this season, according to Johnsrud, are going to be team speed and their performance at their skilled positions.
The Wolves will open their 2016 season on Friday, Aug 26, when they travel to Sidney before opening their home season on Thursday, Sept. 1, when they host Minot in a 7 p.m. contest at Fridley Field.
As for predictions for the upcoming season, Johnsrud picks Bismarck St. Marys and Valley City to be the teams to beat in the AA West, with Wahpeton and Fargo Shanley being the two strongest teams in the East.