St. Bernard High School in Playa del Rey has suspended its varsity football program for the 2012 season.

The news came just 10 days before the 2011 Del Rey League champion was scheduled to open the season against Westchester High School Aug. 24, and following the resignation of head coach Larry Muno after only one season.

To make matters worse, an undisclosed amount of student athletes also decided to transfer from the school, leaving the program with few choices late in the summer.

“We regret to announce that St. Bernard High School is unable to field a varsity football team this season,” said a joint statement by Co-Principals Michael Alvarez and Dr. Cynthia Hoepner.

“All games for the 2012 season have been cancelled. Last week’s resignation of the head football coach and the subsequent transfer to other schools of most of the student-athlete varsity football team members, left us with few options this late in the summer.”

Hoepner is optimistic that the loss of the team and students this season will not ruin the football or athletic programs, but rather serve as inspiration for the future of St. Bernard and its athletes.

“The change hasn’t affected the student body one bit,” said Hoepner. “We have been in school for over a week now and things are back to normal.”

The school did not, however, suspend the junior varsity program. Their first game is scheduled for Sept. 14.

Freshman student Devin Questel, who is a member of the 32-man junior varsity Vikings team, agreed with his principal about the effect the change has had on the student body.

“We are ready to start over,” said Questel. “We want to focus our energy on new ground and come out of this better than ever.”

The varsity team went 10-1 last season under Muno and was crowned as Del Rey League champions, with the only loss coming in a playoff game against South Torrance High School.

To put Muno’s success in perspective at St Bernard, the school won 10 games the previous three years combined.

Hoepner reiterated that the school would support the junior varsity team to the fullest.

“We have kids that still want to play football this season. Despite the transfers, there are still 32 athletes of the JV roster. For this season, the JV team will be our ‘Friday Night Lights,”’ said Hoepner.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles runs the high school as part of Deanery 12. The representative from the diocese for the high school was not available to comment.

According to Questel, all grade levels of the school will be allowed to participate in the JV level of competition.

Despite the positive attitude around campus, some students wish indeed that the season could have taken place.

“I was looking forward to win streaks,” said freshman student Derrick McGee. “We did so well last year and I would have loved to go to the games, but I’m excited to get football back next year.”

When asked if the plans were to bring back a varsity team next season, Hoepner said, “As long as students here at St. Bernard want to play football, we will have a football team.” ¤