KARL JUSTUS
KARL JUSTUS

WELLSTON – The third time is a charm.

After applying three times for the head football coaching job at Wellston, the board of education hired Karl Justus on Saturday, May 12 to lead the Rockets into 2022.

Justus, who was employed at Bethel-Tate High School in Bethel, Ohio, will serve in a full-time position as a physical education teacher at Wellston High School and will teach one class at the Wellston Middle School.

He replaces Nolan Yates, who resigned on Tuesday, April 26.

“I just wanted to be a head coach again,” said Justus. “This is the third time I have interviewed at Wellston, and I have always wanted this job.”

Although he didn’t receive an interview in the original coaching search in January, Justus interviewed for the job in 2017 and again in 2019.

A 1978 graduate of Lancaster High School in Fairfield County, Justus played two years of college football at Ohio University and two years at Capital University, before entering the coaching arena as an assistant at Clinton-Massie High School in Clarksville, Ohio.

Justus comes to Wellston with plenty of coaching experience.

He served as a graduate assistant coach at Akron University under the former head coach at Cincinnati Moeller, as well as Notre Dame, Gerry Faust.

After a short stint at the University of South in Sewanee, Tennessee, he spent three seasons at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama under head coach Terry Bowden.

In 1991, Samford made it to the Division I-AA semifinal playoff game, losing to the Coach Jim Tressel led Youngstown State.

“The game was played in Youngstown, Ohio and it was the worst weather day I have ever experienced,” said Justus. “We were a passing team, and they were a running team, but they were good.”

From Samford, he followed coach Bowden to Auburn in 1993. Although the school was on probation when they arrived, the Tigers had their first undefeated season in school history under Bowden, finishing with a perfect 11-0 record. Justus worked alongside Terry’s brother Tommy as a receivers coach.

He then spent three seasons at the University of West Alabama, located in Livingston, Alabama, before going to Fort Scott Junior College in Fort Scott, Kansas.

He returned to Alabama in 1998 to become the head coach at Coffeeville High School for one season.

Justus then returned to Ohio in 1999 to take the head coaching job at Buckeye Local and his team had instant success, making the playoffs that season.

He has also been the head coach at Conotton Valley in Bowerston, Ohio, as well as Federal Hocking in Stewart, Ohio.

Before going to Bethel-Tate High School, he coached football for three seasons at Hocking College.

With the loss of nine seniors off the 2021 squad, along with a couple of players transferring to other schools at the end of the school year, it is not clear what this season will look like for the Rockets in 2022. But Justus said the team would be competitive.

“We have good hard-working kids,” Justus said. “They are strong, but we aren’t winning any track meets. So, we are going to have to outwork people to be successful, which I am fully confident we will. I think we will have a nice offensive line. Everyone is over six feet and 200-plus pounds.

“I expect us to be good. I have heard the league (TVC-Ohio Division) is down, except for Vinton County. But if we go 9-1 and only lose to them, I will probably do backflips. I would say in the worst-case scenario, we will be competitive.”

Although he feels good about the strength and conditioning of his players, the numbers are low.

“Right now, it is all voluntary. You can’t make anyone come,” Justus said. “We have twenty-six players coming in, but I hope to see an improvement into the mid-thirties before the start of mandatory practice on Aug. 1.

With the season starting earlier this year, there is little time for teaching.

“We hope to have everything in (offense and defense) before we begin on August 1,” said Justus.

After two 7-on-7 passing scrimmages scheduled in July, the Rockets will host Rock Hill in a scrimmage at C.H. Jones Field on Saturday, Aug. 6. They will then scrimmage at Northwest High School on July 12, and the season-opener begins on Friday, Aug. 19, at Oak Hill.