Burk hopes to guide alma mater Deer Lakes back to WPIAL playoffs
It took one year of coaching at Carlynton, miles away from his hometown and alma mater, before Tim Burk realized he wanted to work closer to home. And after nearly a decade at Deer Lakes, the former Lancers quarterback will lead the team from the sideline.
Burk, 39, declared himself “honored” after getting voted in as Deer Lakes’ new football coach at a special district meeting Monday night. The longtime Lancers assistant was approved by a 6-2 vote.
“It’s exciting,” Burk said. “You start as an assistant, and then you just keep grinding and learning and taking bits and pieces from each coach. You learn as you go, and you just keep filtering your way up. It’s been a dream. To come back and coach at your alma mater, and then to keep working your way up at your alma mater, to me it means a lot.”
The 1997 Deer Lakes graduate played quarterback and defensive back under Anthony Taliani. A connection from IUP helped him get the Carlynton assistant position in 2008, but he came to Deer Lakes in 2009, when Todd Hazlett was coaching. He coached for one year at Springdale before returning to Deer Lakes in 2014, spending the past four seasons as Steve Sciullo’s offensive coordinator.
The Deer Lakes ties run even deeper for Burk, whose father coached in the school district. His wife also attended Deer Lakes, and his father-in-law, Larry Rommes, was the football coach there.
“We bleed this place,” said Burk, a patrolman for the West Deer Police Department. “We bleed green and gold. It’s just what we do. We love the community, love the kids, and it’s an honor to be in the position I’m in.”
Burk and the rest of Deer Lakes’ assistant coaches led offseason workouts after Sciullo resigned as coach in May after taking a full-time staff position at Hampton. The rest of the staff is staying on under Burk, with defensive coordinator Matt Dunker taking on the role of associate head coach.
“They all said the same thing: ‘We want to finish what we started,’ ” Burk said.
With the varsity, Burk said he’s preaching two main messages: family and togetherness, two elements he believes the team will need for success. He also believed it was important to maintain as much consistency as possible during the summer.
To that end, Burk kept workouts at the same time as previous years. The only real change implemented involved bringing the middle school program to workouts twice a week. Burk said 26 middle school players were signed up, about double the usual number.
“You talk to the kids, and they’re open books,” he said. “If you have a good relationship, they’ll tell you anything. And that seems to be one of the things that we’ve heard this summer, even with the uncertainty of who was going to be the head coach. It was one of the things that you heard repetitively was, ‘If you guys stay, we’re staying. We’ll play.’ ”
Burk was an assistant in 2010 and ’15, the only two playoff appearances in school history. The Lancers finished 2-7 in 2016 and ’17, but Burk believes the team has potential to push for another postseason trip this fall with an experienced roster returning.
“This group has a chance to be special,” he said. “I think that’s one of the things at Deer Lakes where it’s always been, you don’t always get to reload -- sometimes you have to rebuild. I think it’d be huge for us, if we could turn around and make the playoffs in ’18 again, you’re starting to buck that trend a little bit. I think with this group, there’s some special talent.”