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Tuesday, December 13, 2005 | This is the kind of story Torrey Pines High football coach Ed Burke won’t read. The Internet age has long ago passed by the old coach. He doesn’t check e-mails for the simple reason he’s never set up an e-mail account.
I told a couple of Torrey Pines’ star players, running back Scooter Belasco and linebacker Cooper Stephenson, to take some time during school to guide Burke to a computer and show him how to log onto the Internet and visit Voice of San Diego.
They chuckled in good humor. They know that despite Burke’s limited awareness of the 21st century’s technological tools, the game of football most certainly has not passed by their 69-year-old coach.
Nor has Burke’s ability to relate to kids and teach them sportsmanship and responsibility, even when challenged by this hip-hop age of high school and youth athletes inundated and negatively influenced by televised images of selfish pro athletes and end zone antics.
Burke’s Falcons are seeking their third straight CIF San Diego Section Division I title when Palomar League champion Torrey Pines (11-1) and Avocado League champion Carlsbad (9-3) play at 8 p.m. tonight in the nightcap of the high school football quadruple-header at Qualcomm Stadium. The three CIF championship games kick off at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Under Burke, Torrey’s teams have won two CIF titles outright (1992 and 2003), shared two others as co-champions (1997 and 2004) and finished as the runner-up two times (1994 and 1998). Although the Falcons are making their seventh trip to Qualcomm in 14 seasons, this may have been Burke’s finest coaching job in 29 years as a head coach and 40-plus in high school football.
Curt Stephenson, Cooper’s father, believes so, and the former La Jolla High, University of Michigan and Buffalo Bills wide receiver has been following Torrey Pines football since he settled in Del Mar 20 years ago.
“They started the season without an experienced quarterback and they replaced two three-year starters, Tim Barnes and Shane Kilcoyne, who were the heart and soul of that Wing-T offense last year,” Curt Stephenson said. “He had only one returning offensive lineman and they play in what I believe is the toughest league in San Diego. They beat Rancho Bernardo, La Costa Canyon and Poway – those are powerful teams that made the playoffs – and to make matters worse, they were decimated by injuries all year.”
The elder Stephenson, who set a Rose Bowl record with a 76-yard touchdown catch from Ricky Leach in Michigan’s 1978 Rose Bowl loss to Washington, has followed Torrey Pines football as a fan, a father and now as the color analyst on the KCEO-1000 AM radio broadcasts of Torrey Pines games aired with veteran play-by-play man Jerry Gross.
He’s spent his career coached by three football giants, and he identifies in Burke the same traits he saw in the late Gene Edwards, a San Diego high school legend who was his La Jolla coach; Bo Schembechler, a college football icon who was his Michigan coach; and Chuck Knox, his coach in Buffalo who had a long and successful career as an NFL head coach.
As a radio analyst, Curt Stephenson says the adjustments Burke and his staff make in games are on par with an NFL coaching staff. As a father, he says he’d send his son to play for Schembechler “in a nano-second” if Bo was still coaching and he feels the same way about Burke.
“The one thing they all possessed was a love of the game and integrity,” Stephenson said. “Ed wants to win dearly, but he teaches the kids discipline and respect. They know they have rules and policies to follow. His players have to be dedicated to their classes and their teammates. To keep up that integrity with all the changes that have gone on in football the last few decades, I give him the utmost respect.”
Burke also has been a mentor to coaches around San Diego for many years since first coming to Torrey Pines in 1980. He left the school and coaching a couple of times to get into administration – there was a stint coaching at San Dieguito in between office jobs – but both times he came to his senses and returned to what he does best – influencing young men and sharing knowledge with other coaches.
Mira Mesa coach Gary Blevins, whose team handed Torrey Pines its only loss in the season’s fourth week, credits advice from Burke for helping him elevate his school’s program.
In the summer before the 1994 season, Burke may have cost his team a CIF championship the following fall by teaching his Wing-T offense to Castle Park coach Gil Warren. Castle Park – with future Chargers linebacker Zeke Moreno – upset Torrey Pines – featuring future NFL players Chad Hutchinson and Brody Heffner – in the CIF Division II championship game at Qualcomm.
Burke had no regrets helping Warren in 1994 or Blevins in 2005 and all the coaches in between. That’s what old-school coaches do – they teach and they share information.
He’s told me he has no hobbies and doesn’t know what he’d do if he quit coaching. That’s good news for kids growing up in the Torrey Pines enrollment area and San Diego coaches looking for advice.
Come to think of it, hey Scooter and Cooper – maybe you should show Coach Burke he can use the Internet to teach more athletes and coaches about the game of football. The old coach might finally join the 21st century and get an e-mail account.
The schedule for today’s CIF San Diego Section football championships quadruple-header at Qualcomm Stadium:
Tom Shanahan has been writing about San Diego athletes at the professional, collegiate and high school levels for 27 years. He is the media coordinator for the San Diego Hall of Champions (www.sdhoc.com). You can e-mail him at