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Burnett resigns as Tuscarora football coach to head back west

Michael Burnett is returning to California to coach and teach after guiding the Tuscarora High School football team for the past eight seasons. Prior to Tuscarora opening in 2010, Burnett led Broad Run to consecutive state championships in 2008 and 2009.—Photo Courtesy/Bill Vocke
In 2006, Michael Burnett and his young family relocated from Santa Monica, Calif., to Leesburg, so he could teach social studies and coach the varsity football team at Broad Run High School.

At the time the Spartans were a middling program, averaging three wins a season in the seven years before Burnett showed up. Within two years, Broad Run was a 10-0 team heading into the playoffs; within four years, the school had captured its only two state football championships with consecutive 14-0 records.

In 2010, taking an opportunity to chair the social studies department, Burnett moved to brand new Tuscarora High School in Leesburg. He built the newborn Huskies’ football program from scratch, racking up 77 wins over eight campaigns and twice reaching the state’s grand finale, the most recent appearance less than a month ago. He was named the Don Shula High School Coach of the Year by the National Football League in 2015.

In 2018, Burnett will again patrol the sidelines and instruct in classrooms, but it will be back in California.

“It’s really brutal leaving this community,” Burnett said in an interview with the Times-Mirror. “But I think this [Tuscarora] program is on really solid footing for the next several years.”

Burnett confirmed Jan. 3 that he has accepted the positions of head football coach and social studies teacher at Harvard-Westlake School, an independent private high school in Los Angeles.

“It came about pretty suddenly at the end of the season,” Burnett said. “They sought me out. They knew me from some of my old contacts and thought I would be a good fit.”

Burnett noted the school’s perennially high academic rankings as an attraction, as well as his family’s familiarity with the area.

As with Broad Run, Burnett seeks to spark a football program that has struggled to attract athletes and win games, despite Harvard-Westlake’s national reputation in baseball and basketball.

“It gives my family a chance to be a part of a really unique community, and at the same time another challenge to build a football program,” Burnett said. “It’s a special opportunity and that’s what drove me there.”

Teaching through football

Burnett is a Massachusetts native who earned a degree in Maine and worked as an attorney in Martinsville. There he began teaching school and coaching basketball, and met his wife to-be.

The couple moved west where Burnett served as head football coach at Santa Monica High School for three seasons, setting the stage for him to arrive at Broad Run.

One aspect of his days with the Spartans especially stands out.

“We had such tremendous relationships with the players and their families,” Burnett said, rattling off several kids’ names from the period. “They gave so much to turn around a program, and that was a special thing, to help build that community spirit up.”

Burnett’s memories around Tuscarora begin with his late friend and defensive coordinator Adam Fortune, who died suddenly from cardiomyopathy in July 2014. The school named its football stadium Fortune Field.

“This was a dream of his and mine to open a new program founded on the values we thought were important,” Burnett said. “To have the field named for him, it’s nice to know that will always be there.”

Burnett has always maintained that the sport of football is an ideal vehicle for reaching the student-athletes he’s made a career of reaching.

“Football is very special in the selfless aspect of the game. You can never have success without a team effort. One person can’t do it,” Burnett said.

“It’s a good thing to get used to. You’re going to have to do things for others to be a successful man.”


Good luck coach. It’s good you are going to a private school out there versus a public school.

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