Byrnes takes helm of Frog football

Written by Alex MacLean, The Union Democrat April 16, 2013 06:28 pm

New Bret Harte varsity football coach Jon Byrnes directs action during his time with the junior varsity Frogs. Jeff Rasmussen / Courtesy Photo
The Bret Harte Bullfrogs have selected a familiar face to guide its football program next season and beyond.

Longtime assistant coach Jon Byrnes will take over as Bret Harte football head coach after Scott Edwards resigned in March over concerns about the future of his teaching position amid talks of budget cuts at the Angels Camp school.

“We picked Jon because we thought it was going to be a better transition with him,” said Bret Harte athletic director Heath Lane. “He’s already been involved with the program for many years, he’s well respected by the kids and parents like him a lot. We think he’ll do a great job.”

The Bret Harte Union High School District Board of Trustees approved the selection of Byrnes during closed session at a meeting Monday night. He’ll receive a $3,900 stipend for the position in addition to his salary as a physical education teacher at the school.

“I’m honored to have this spot,” Byrnes said. “I respect all of the other coaches in the Mother Lode League and hope that I can gain their respect as well.”

Byrnes, 43, is a Calaveras County native who grew up in Arnold and attended Bret Harte High, where he played football all four years at quarterback and defensive back.

After graduating high school in 1988, Byrnes played college football for a year at Azusa Pacific University before transferring to California State University, Fullerton, where he graduated in 1992.

Byrnes moved back to the area in 1995 after traveling overseas and began working as a student-teacher at Bret Harte before being hired as a physical education teacher the following year. That same year he served a stint as head coach of the school’s track and field team and began as an assistant football coach.

From 1998 to 2000, Byrnes took a job as assistant track coach at Minnesota State University, Mankato, a Division II college located in south central Minnesota, before returning to Bret Harte where he’s served as an assistant under Edwards since 2006.

“Scott’s departure is obviously a huge loss to the program,” Byrnes said of the former coach who now works in North Dakota as offensive coordinator for the University of Mary’s football team. “This is a great opportunity for me. I’ve never been the head coach of a varsity program before, but I’m familiar with how things operate here and can maybe instill a little bit of change.”

In his career, Byrnes has coached defensive backs, wide receivers, running backs and quarterbacks. He’s also coordinated defense at all levels and offense at the frosh and junior varsity level.

Byrnes served as offensive coordinator of the Bullfrog JV football team that went 3-7 last season. 

“I have a great relationship with the JV team and those players,” Byrnes said. “We were only 3-7 last year, but my goal was to retain all those guys and I think we really accomplished that. I feel like there’s an energy and spark out there and we’re going to take a little bit of that with us to varsity.”

He described his coaching style as conservative, but reassured that he’s “not afraid to roll the dice.”

“I would like to ground-and-pound if I could but I’ll work with whatever we have,” he said.

A long term goal for Byrnes is to make the Bullfrogs more competitive in the Mother Lode League. Bret Harte went 1-9 overall last season without a single win in the MLL.

“We’re just not satisfied and something has to change,” Byrnes said.

One way Byrnes hopes to improve the Bullfrogs is by building upon Edwards’ efforts to work with local youth programs such as AMA (Angels Camp-Murphys-Arnold) Youth Sports. 

“You look at programs like Calaveras and Argonaut and from the time those kids are really small, they are running the same schemes so that when they get to high school it’s all familiar,” Byrnes said. “Scott (Edwards) did a great job of rallying the youth program to run the same schemes, and we hope to continue and expand it.”