Veteran Coach Burt Has Santa Rosa Ready for First Game

Coach Bob Burt instructs his players as Santa Rosa Academy prepares for its first varsity football...

Coach Bob Burt instructs his players as Santa Rosa Academy prepares for its first varsity football game.
Watch head coach Bob Burt work with a group of 44 players in a new football program on a new football field, and you figure he has his work cut out for him.

To Burt, it's nothing new.

The 73-year-old head coach, who said he had retired for the last time a year ago after a coaching career of more than 40 years, was talked into returning to the game to prepare Santa Rosa Academy for its first season of varsity football. It all begins Saturday at 4 p.m. with a game against Calvary Chapel on the team's new campus field.

Last season under a different coach, the Rangers lost all four games they played against junior varsity teams. This year, the team will play a full varsity schedule against league foes California Military Institute, Calvary Murrieta, Calvary Christian and Nuview Bridge.

"There's a lot of excitement," Burt said after practice one day this week. "The kids can't wait. It's the first real, countable football game in school history. The parents are excited; everyone's excited."

Burt's first head coaching job in 1966 was an assignment to build a new football program at Pater Nastor High in Eagle Rock. He went on to build a coaching career that included a long tenure at Cal State Northridge and a stint at Cal State Fullerton when the Titans recorded an 11-1 season. He also coached Temescal Canyon to a CIF title in 1995.

But after leaving a coaching position at Cypress High last season, Burt said he was through. Then Santa Rosa came calling.

"I wasn't going to coach again," he said. "I've never coached at the small schools level like this. I coached at a private school at Notre Dame High, where we had some of the same issues. They had good size, but limited numbers."

The Rangers don't have much size if you compare them to public schools from larger divisions, but Burt says they're "average" sized for the level in which they will compete. Since taking the job right before spring practice in April, he has focused on building a foundation for the program.

"There's very little football experience on the team," Burt said. "Maybe 8-12 of the kids have had any football experience at all before they came here. I'm doing the same thing I've done with every program -- start with the basics and teach fundamentals."