Brian Barnes, who successfully transitioned Tesoro High from a Division IX football program to a competitive team in the Southern Section's marquee division, the Pac-5, has been replaced as the program's head coach with one game remaining.
Tesoro, which reached the section semifinals last season and has spent much of this season in the state's top 20 rankings, will end its season on Friday with a nonleague road game against Chula Vista of the San Diego Section.
Tesoro is 6-3 this season, but 1-3 in the five-team South Coast League following a stunning loss on Friday to San Clemente, 29-21. In that game, San Clemente scored three touchdowns in the final four minutes; two of the scores came in the last minute. It was Tesoro's third loss in a row, preceded by losses to El Toro, 41-31, and Mission Viejo, 55-32.
The loss sealed Tesoro's absence from this year's playoffs; instead, the two at-large berths will likely go to teams from the Serra or Trinity leagues.
Before the loss to San Clemente, Tesoro was ranked No. 15 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports.
Barnes could not be reached, but a spokesman for the Capistrano Unified School District said that this was a personnel decision and that personnel decisions are made at the district level, not the school level. The decision was made on Monday.
"John Hall will be the interim coach of the Tesoro football team for the rest of the season," said spokesman Marcus Walton.
Hall is the team's defensive coordinator.
But Walton stopped short of saying that the decision was permanent, and wouldn't acknowledge that Barnes had been fired.
"No one has said that Brian Barnes has been fired as the head coach at Tesoro High School," Walton said.
Walton did not provide much of a timeline for naming a permanent replacement—assuming Barnes isn't coming back.
"There will be an announcement about the head coaching situation in time for preparation for next year," Walton said.
Barnes will remain a teacher in the district.
The move comes as a surprise to many because of the enthusiastic and optimistic coach's success and apparent popularity. He was, according to one school official, everything that his predecessor, Jim O'Connell, was not.
Though O'Connell led Tesoro in its infancy to a couple of small school championships, the program was 1-9 in 2006. Barnes was brought aboard from Estancia, where he had coached one year, for the 2007 season.
The team went 7-4 his first season, and won the South Coast League title, breaking Mission Viejo's seven-year streak as champion.
The following season Tesoro lost its only game in the section finals, 20-17, to Long Beach Poly.
In six seasons with Tesoro, Barnes' teams were a combined 47-23; prior to that, he coached Estancia to a 7-4 record.
This will be only the second time that Tesoro failed to qualify for the playoffs under Barnes' guidance.
Editor's note: Because of a series of coin flips Tesoro won with two other teams tied with it in the standings, Tesoro made the playoffs.