Drew Shaw didn’t want to say goodbye to the St. Monica Catholic football team. The program had made dramatic progress in two years, it recently completed one of its best seasons in recent history and the potential for more success was evident.

But the coach’s stint at the helm of the Mariners has come to an end.

Shaw said he and his wife are leaving Santa Monica and moving to Nashville, Tenn., to be closer to his older brother, who was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease about a year and a half ago.

Shaw broke the news to his players after St. Monica’s season, which came to an end last month with a loss to Temecula-Rancho Christian in the CIF Southern Section playoffs.

“It’s going to be very hard to leave, but I know I’m doing the right thing,” he said. “The hardest part was telling the players. Saying out loud that I’m not going to be their coach anymore, I had mixed emotions.”

The private school has begun its search for Shaw’s replacement and was planning to start interviewing candidates this month, according to president Thom Gasper. Thirty-plus applicants were interested in the vacancy.

Gasper said the school’s next coach will hopefully possess Shaw’s combination of football knowledge and off-the-field leadership.

“We want to build on his success,” he said. “We had a great year, so we want to stand on the shoulders of that. But we hope to be able to do that while maintaining the level of character and commitment that Coach Shaw and his staff brought to the program. We don’t want to win at all costs. We want to win with honor. That was a good match with Coach Shaw.”

Shaw, who was also a teacher at the school, started in the football program as an assistant under Adam Guerra with no head coaching experience.

He was given the top job in 2014 and led St. Monica to a 5-5 season a year after the team went 3-8. The improvement set the stage for this past fall, when Shaw guided the Mariners to a remarkable 9-2 campaign that included a Santa Fe League title.

During the squad’s eight-game winning streak, St. Monica outscored its opponents by a combined margin of 323-102 and topped the 45-point benchmark four times. It also emerged unscathed in three games decided by two points or fewer.

Shaw was also involved in campus athletics away from the gridiron. He served as a track and field coach and helped to establish a rugby team at the high school.

“I’ve really enjoyed my time here, and I’m very thankful for the opportunity I was given,” he said. “I’m really thankful for the support I received from the administration, the parents and the kids. … I wish the program well.”

Gasper said Shaw’s decision reflects his values.

“We were surprised because he’s just been a great asset to our school,” Gasper said. “He was a successful coach, a great teacher in the classroom and a great leader on campus. But as disappointed as we were with the timing, we understand. He’s a man of good character, so his priorities for his family don’t surprise us. The players are disappointed. But if we’re going to call ourselves a community, then we have to understand that.”