Johnsrud to head Wolves football program
By Stephanie Allums
Farmer Staff Writer
It’s a Friday night and the stands are packed with anxious fans, yelling and rooting for the Wolves. The football field soaks up the sweat dripping off of the passionate Watford City football players as they move down the field for a touchdown.
The streets of Watford City are quiet. Every house is empty and peaceful. And the sound of cheering football fans echoes through the town.
Back in the good-ole days, attending the Watford City football games was an entire town event.
“They would say, ‘the last one to leave home turns out the town lights,’” said Justin Johnsrud, Watford City High School’s new head football coach. “When I was growing up, if it was a Friday night, you were at the football game.”
For 45 years, Fred Fridley coached the Watford City High School football team - 42 of those years as head coach. Fridley retired this year.
Coach Johnsrud has some immense shoes to fill, as he takes on his first year as head coach for the 2014-2015 football season. He was the defensive coordinator for six years, prior to taking on this position.
“I am extremely lucky to have coached under Fred Fridley,” Johnsrud said. “He let me have my own philosophies and opinions. He allowed me to get involved in every aspect of coaching and the game.”
Johnsrud not only had the opportunity to coach under Fridley, but also played for Fridley during his high school years in Watford City.
“It’s exciting to see one of my ex-players taking over,” Fridley said. “Justin is a great man for the job. He has a good work ethic and he has a great relationship with the kids. That’s a key factor.”
There are eight returning starters on both defense and offense for the upcoming football season in Watford City.
“We only had six seniors last year. So, it’s not like we’re rebuilding or starting from scratch this year,” Johnsrud said. “We have a great group that has worked hard in the past and I expect the same this year.”
Johnsrud is proud of the tremendous group of followers that the Watford City High School football team has had for many years.
“There are a lot of Watford City alumni whose kids are now playing this great sport here,” Johnsrud said. “I am excited to carry on the traditions that Coach Fridley started 42 years ago.”
With the new high school in the process of being constructed, and a new football field in the future, Johnsrud knows that he will one day be coaching on the new field.
“It’s going to be different,” Johnsrud said. “I’ve been going to games for 35 years and there has never been a home game that wasn’t at Fridley Field. It’s going to be a challenge, and it’s going to take some getting used to.”
Since Johnsrud was six years old, he has been wrapped up in the midst of football.
“I used to ride around with my grandfather, Bill Faulkner, and his friends - listening to them talk football,” Johnsrud said. “I was introduced to the sport at an early age.”
Along with his new position, Johnsrud is also an Ag teacher at the high school.