At the beginning of the week, Michael Burnett was expressing his pleasure with the Santa Monica High football program. He had coached the team for three years and seen the Vikings rise from winless to league contender that qualified for the CIF playoffs. “We’re right where we want to be,’’ he said about the 2006 Samohi team that is regarded as the Ocean League favorite.But Burnett won’t be coaching the team. He has resigned, effective in June, to become head coach at Broad Run High in Ashburn, Virginia, in the southern part of the state.It’s a matter of economics.“Three years ago my wife and I didn’t have any chidren,’’ he said. “Now we have two small boys and the prices of homes are so high here. This situation in Virginia came up quickly, six weeks ago, I didn’t have any idea I’d be leaving.’’Burnett came to Samohi four years ago from the northern part of Virginia and coached the Viking junior varsity for one season before moving up. The opening was created when Norm Lacy decided to stop coaching the football team but he remained at Samohi as a teacher and golf coach.“I don’t know anyone in the part of Virginia where I’m going,’’ said Burnett. “But in that state no summer leagues or passing leagues are allowed, so even though I won’t arrive until July I won’t be far behind.’’However, his task will be formidable. Broad Run lost its first eight games last season, won one, then lost the final game. The team was outscored, 331-135.“For my remaining time here I’ll work with the Samohi off-season program,’’ said Burnett. “But it would be good for the new coach to be hired in time for spring practice in May. I’m making a necessary move but I’m experiencing some frustration, too, because of what I’m leaving behind.’’It’s too early for Samohi athletic director Doug Kim to know who Burnett’s successor will be or even whether a Samohi background will be required of candidates.’’I hope it will be someone who has been on my staff,’’ said Burnett. ’That would ease the transition for the players.’’Burnett is trading an outstanding team for one that has struggled in recent years and went 1-9 last season.“It will be a challenge,’’ he said. “I’ll miss so much about here but with me family comes first.’’Among the players he’s leaving behind are all-CIF receiver and defensive back Cameron Collins, all-Ocean League first team running back Lewis Adeyemi, second team all-league rusher E.J. Woods and all-league second team quarterback Ryan Katz.Collins, a superb athlete, is drawing attention from major universities. Katz, who excelled as a sophomore, is similarly regarded as a Division 1 prospect. The new coach will have the luxury of starting out with a high caliber quarterback who is likely to be at the controls the next two seasons. Although Burnett’s team went winless in his first Samohi season, Kim stuck with him, telling reporters the new coach was doing things right. Burnett brought discipline for his second season, going without some talented players who left the program. The coach made it clear that character was an important ingredient with him and the team improved significantly.Kim made a wise decision that wasn’t easy. Samohi’s 0-9-1 record with the unknown coach came only two years after the Vikings won a CIF championship with Lacy.Burnett didn’t accept transfers, either, going primarily with Santa Monica kids who were willing to put in the work.“The last piece to the puzzle, in my estimation, is to develop some high caliber linemen,’’ he said. “We have several big kids with strong potential who are freshmen in our program.’’There’s a chance Samohi and the entire Ocean League will move from Division 4 to 3 and will be grouped with the Bay League, which includes several longtime Viking rivals.That isn’t certain but has been discussed at several meetings as the CIF is expected to reshuffle several divisions.Next season, Samohi’s highest profile games will be against CIF powerhouse Los Alamitos, defending Ocean League champion Beverly Hills and Culver City, which made the playoffs last season.Another Ocean League coach, Art Houghtaling of Hawthorne, has made the same decision as Burnett. He resigned, citing the high prices of homes in Southern California, and said he will seek a coaching job in Oregon.“It’s almost the same situation,’’ said Burnett. “But I wouldn’t leave without having another job. He was willing to do that. I know he has a young family and found home prices in the South Bay to be extremely high.”It is not known if Kim will hire an assistant who hasn’t been a head coach. Or someone from Samohi’s storied past. Or someone with no connection to the program.One name that immediately drew attention was Sam Anno, a former Samohi, USC and NFL player who was an assistant on Lacy’s championship teams at both Samohi and St. Monica. He’s currently a Graduate Assistant on Pete Carroll’s staff at USC and has told friends he intends to continue in that direction.Another name being mentioned is Malibu High coach Ray Humphrey, who was a Samohi assistant for 12 years before being selected for his first head coaching job a year ago with the Sharks.
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