Justin Berna, a former West Hills College Coalinga standout player, has agreed to become the Falcons' Director of Sport Operations/Head Football Coach, announced associate dean of athletics Eric Mendoza.
Berna will begin his new position on May 1. He is currently finishing his duties as the head football coach at Avila University in Kansas City, Missouri.
"We are excited to welcome back Justin to West Hills College Coalinga, as the new leader of the Falcon football program," Mendoza said.
"Justin brings college head coaching experience and a passion for helping student-athletes succeed in academics, athletics, and citizenship. His teaching and leadership philosophies align with the mission and core values of West Hills College Coalinga – a place he is very familiar with. We believe Justin's roots in the Central Valley with help grow our football program to new heights in recruiting and developing community partnerships. Our student-athletes will be inspired by not only his own personal success story, but by his enthusiastic energy and ability to motivate in a positive fashion."
Berna is a product of Yosemite High School in Oakhurst and was an all-league selection for the Badgers before playing at WHCC under then-head coach Mark Gritton.
As a Falcons starting tight end and H-back, Berna earned Academic All-Northern California Football Conference honors and played in two bowl games – the 2002 Silicon Valley Bowl (runners-up) and the 2003 Pacific Graffiti Bowl (champions).
The 2003 WHCC team finished the season ranked No. 9 in the final California Community College Football Coaches Association poll for the north.
In addition to being a two-year team captain, Berna was voted Athlete of the Year by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and received his associate of arts degree in Liberal Arts in 2004 with honors.
After playing at WHCC, Berna transferred on scholarship to Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri – where he played two years and earned a bachelor's degree in English Literature and a master's degree in Education.
"My family and I are extremely excited to return to the Central Valley and West Hills College Coalinga," Berna said.
"I loved my time as a Falcon student-athlete and want our current and future student-athletes to have the same experience and feel the same pride in being a Falcon as I did. I want to thank college president Brenda Thames and athletic director Eric Mendoza for this great opportunity for my family and I to come home."
For the past six seasons (2011-2016), Berna has led Avila's NAIA Division I program, where he has coached more than 70 All-Heart of America Conference players, including the first All-American in school history.
Berna, the school's all-time leader in wins, guided the Eagles to their first Top 25 national ranking (2014) and set records in more than 30 categories.
He also established new standards with the program's academic progress, achieving a team 2.98 GPA, with 42 players earning a 3.0 GPA or higher.
Prior to Avila, Berna was the assistant head coach and offensive coordinator at MacMurray College (2009-2011) in Jacksonville, Illinois.
Under Berna's play calling, the MacMurray offense set 15 school records, including single-game records for points (68), passing yards (465) and completions (33 of 44). His offensive unit also set the conference mark for single-game TD passes (7).
Other school records included career receiving touchdowns (25), longest pass play (86 yards), completion percentage (62 percent) and season scoring average (30.1 points per game) in 2009.
From 2006-2008, Berna coached wide receivers and running backs coach at Lindenwood following his playing career there.
In 2008, the program won its first-ever playoff game and earned a trip to the NAIA national semifinals. The Lions were 11-2 overall and finished No. 3 in the nation.
In 2007, Lindenwood averaged 38 points per game and 6.2 yards per carry, which led the country. The team also won the Heart of America Athletic Conference championship and finished with a 10-2 record and No. 12 national ranking.
Lindenwood was 24-9 during Berna's three seasons – with a conference championship, two playoff berths, and two playoff wins.
At each of his three coaching stints, Berna has handled all of the team's strength and conditioning responsibilities.
Before joining the coaching staff at Lindenwood, Berna was a two-year letter winner and captain for the Lions football program in 2004 and 2005.
While playing for the Lions, the 2004 team captured the Heart of America Athletic Conference title and advanced to the NAIA national playoffs. Berna was named to the academic all-conference team and was a member of the university's Dean's List.
The 2004 Lindenwood team was inducted into the university's Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010. As a collegiate player at WHCC and Lindenwood, his four teams combined for a record of 31-13 with three postseason appearances.
Berna and his wife, Arielle, have two daughters, Dakota (4) and Dallas (1).
The WHCC football program has captured three consecutive Golden Coast League titles. The 2016 Falcons won the NCFC American Division Bowl Championship Game as well. The top-ranked program is 27-6 since 2014 – including a conference best 16-2 in the GCL.
Berna said his first duties will include recruiting a current team roster, helping qualified players transfer to the four-year level, and building his coaching staff.
"I look forward to meeting with our students-athletes and getting reacquainted with the campus community," he said.
"We have a lot to do in a short amount of time, but it's an exciting challenge that we will face together with a blue-collar mentality."
To contact WHCC Football, please call (559) 934-2501