It was a sad football season for the Florin Panthers. They won their opener against Mira Loma then proceeded to lose the next nine games. Most were blow-outs.
Monterey Trail drubbed them, 69-0. Even in a weak Metro League, Florin barely competed. They even had to forfeit its game with Burbank because they didn’t have enough guys.
Mike Rosales resigned as coach. Athletic Director George Smith, himself a former football coach at Florin, was in a bit of conundrum.
But, one man stepped up and asked to take on the challenge making Florin competitive once again. The man is William Burandt, a long-time football assistant coach and school counselor.
What make this story unique is that Burandt will coach the Panthers from a wheelchair. Many years ago he contracted Gambre Syndrome, a disabling disease that robs the body of total control of arms and legs.
But, Burandt says he’s not going to let that stop him. Admittedly, it made him seriously consider the thought of taking on the year-round job of a high school football program.
“I knew I was going to ask kids to commit (to football) and I knew they wouldn’t commit if I couldn’t commit to it,” he said. “So I had to think about that before I approached George about the job.”
And Smith says he was all for giving the job to Burandt.
“Bill has overcome some major obstacles in his life, and he has always remained true to Florin High School,” Smith said. “Therefore, he will be inspirational to the coaching community and the Florin High community.”
Smith should know.
He and Burandt coached under Ed Johnson together, plus they were assistants for baseball coach Mike Harris.
“Right away, I observed Bill’s extensive knowledge of football, and more importantly, his unique ability to relate, counsel, teach and demand the best of his student-athletes,” Smith said.
When Smith took over the reigns in 2012, Burandt coached the offensive line.
“I’m an educator, a social science teacher and a counselor, and a lot of what I do is right in line with my philosophy in coaching,” Burandt said. “I have learned to be very good in explaining things since I can’t get down and demonstrate it anymore. I think I can use that to help younger and less experienced coaches.”
Burandt got his first coaching opportunity more than 20 years ago at Berkeley High School under coach Mike Tuiasosopo, currently the linebackers and special teams coach at UCLA. Later Burandt coached at James Logan High School in the Bay Area.
His Cal State-Hayward college friend Harris came to Florin and a year later, 2001, he followed him.
In talking to Burandt the words “family” and “friendships” come frequently out of his mouth. As a counselor he’s started programs with students such as team circles and Senior Family Nights just to bind everyone together. He wants to bring this same spirit of togetherness to the football team.
“There’s nothing like Friday Night lights,” Burandt said. “The level of high school is the last level where it is about fun. I tell them enjoy this now because in college it’s all business because it’s all about W’s and L’s.”
He knows he’s got his work cut out for him after last season’s disaster.
“Valley walked the Highway 99 trophy out of here and I hate it,” he said. “We’ll get that back next year.”
But, first there’s some foundational things he’ll do this spring to get football back into the minds of the student body at Florin.
“Relationships are the biggest thing,” Burandt admitted. “Football is a great sport, the best team sport ever invented. It’s learning about yourself, working with others to accomplish a common goal. Learning how to give up some of your wants and desires for the good of the common goal. I just need to show (the players) that I care.”
Coming alongside of him will be former Sac State player and Florin alum Evander Wilkins. Also helping out will be Ruben Gonzalez and Pierre Johnson. Johnson was a running back for Max Miller at Cordova and at Sacramento City College.
He also has invited former strength and conditioning coach Troy Gasaway, now an assistant principal at Cosumnes Oaks, to return to Florin.
“We had a first meeting on Monday and I told them this program is decimated and it’s a take it from scratch deal,” Burandt said. “I know despite the won-loss record of the (former head coach Mike) Morales years, we maxed out the best of the kids we had and got them to play at as high a level as they could play at.”
“We can do that only if we show we give a damn about them and support them,” he concluded. “It’s going to be a challenge and it’s going to be a lot of work and we need to be prepared for that.”