DOWNTOWN — Larry Muno has stepped down as head football coach at St. Monica to accept a position at nearby St. Bernard Catholic High School.

Muno leaves after just two seasons with St. Monica, having rebuilt the football program in short order, culminating this year in the team’s first playoff appearance since 2003.

Muno came to a St. Monica team that had won just one game in the previous three years.

“It was a great place,” Muno said of St. Monica. “They have a lot of good things going on over there, but this [job] just offered me a better opportunity.”

Aside from coaching duties, Muno will serve as a marketing administrator at St. Bernard, which is located in Playa del Rey. Ironically, St. Monica plays most of its home games on St. Bernard’s field.

While at St. Monica, Muno was a walk-on coach who didn’t have a position with the school. On the side, he serves as a firefighter in the city of Vernon. He said that he expects to stay with the fire department in addition to his duties at St. Bernard.

He cited more control over the football program as one of the factors that led to his decision to leave St. Monica.

“There are exciting things going on here,” Muno said of St. Bernard. “That’s why I came to the school, because of the leadership opportunity it offered me.”

Muno leaves behind a St. Monica program that is coming off its best season since the early 2000s. The Mariners were 8-3 this season before falling to Chadwick in the first round of the playoffs. According to sources on the team, a search for the next coach is underway, but no official word has come out of St. Monica. Calls to Athletic Director Rick Bruce were not returned on Thursday.

“I’m kind of surprised he stepped down,” graduating senior quarterback Matthew Partyka said. “But, I have to say that I learned a lot under him.”

Partyka was instrumental in the Mariners’ rebound from its losing past. He, along with Muno, led the Mariners to a 3-6 record in 2009 as the pair instituted an up-tempo offense that featured a fair share of passes. Partyka, who had never played organized football before taking up Muno’s invitation to join the team, said that Muno’s lasting legacy will be that vaunted passing attack.

But, above all else, Partyka credited Muno for bringing a winning culture to a school that had fallen on hard times. He expects Muno to do the same for St. Bernard.

“He expects hard work, but it’s all fun with him,” Partyka said. “He taught us a lot and he was patient while doing it.”

daniela@www.smdp.com

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