Sophomore Burnett leading upstart Fairfield
Fairfield running back Charlie Burnett and quarterback Darian Mort discuss Burnett's hot start this season. Matt Allibone
Darwin Seiler has been around the block a few times.
The Fairfield head coach is in his 36th year coaching, with previous stops at Westminster, Waynesboro and Shippensburg University. He's coached a lot of players and seen many running backs along the way.
And he already believes Fairfield sophomore Charlie Burnett is among the most talented backs to ever suit up for him.
"As far as a young kid with his skills and his vision, I can't think of anybody," Seiler said. "Charlie's as good as we've had here (at Fairfield). He's a special athlete, with all the skills physically. And he's a humble kid who works very, very hard."
In just his second year of high school football, Burnett has become a go-to offensive weapon for the Green Knights. During Fairfield's 4-0 start, the sophomore has rushed for 634 yards and run for seven touchdowns while averaging 8.3 yards per carry.
He's also scored two return touchdowns and been a reliable target out of the backfield for quarterback Darian Mort. His emergence has helped the Green Knights average 38 points per game a year after they scored more than 20 just three times.
"Anytime he has the ball in his hands, he's capable of doing great things," Seiler said. "What our task has to be is keep an eye on how many carries he has because that stuff gets cumulative."
At 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, Burnett is bigger than your average sophomore. According to Seiler, the running back bulked up over the offseason by being "a monster" in the weight room.
Burnett's motivation to improve was fueled by a frustrating freshman season hindered by a concussion. While Burnett missed just two games and received significant playing time when healthy, he wasn't satisfied after Fairfield finished 1-9.
"I realized other guys were getting better than me while I had the concussion," Burnett said. "Over the summer, I had the mentality that nobody's going to be better than me or my team. When I was diagnosed, I told my dad, 'This is just going to make me work harder.'"
On a small team with just five seniors and five juniors, Burnett's quiet confidence and work ethic made him a natural leader this offseason. While he wasn't on most people's radar prior to the season, the Green Knights were confident he'd be a star.
"We knew how special he was," Seiler said. "And we knew with what we had at other positions, it was going to give him the opportunity to do what he does."
Now four games into this season, Burnett isn't a secret around the YAIAA anymore. And with the Green Knights off to the best start in program history, the sophomore and his teammates may soon have a target on their backs in Division III.
Despite the new expectations, Burnett is excited for the challenge.
"In my mind, it's kind of fun knowing (other team's) key on me, I can't really explain it," Burnett said. "I can handle it. I stay humble … everything I do is for my team and not for my personal reasons. But I enjoy it."
With only five teams now in District 3 Class 1A, Fairfield has put itself in a very good position to make the district title game. But it could take a few more wins, and the Green Knights have strong division opponents, including Bermudian Springs, Delone Catholic, Littlestown and York Catholic remaining on the schedule.
The first challenge comes this Friday at Bermudian, a team that has dominated Division III in recent years. With more eyes on them and a playoff berth within reach, the Green Knights are trying not to look too far ahead.
"We've got to keep on winning and winning to prove that Fairfield is for real this year," Burnett said. "I don't want to get a big head, going into games thinking we're big and bad. We've got to stay down-to-earth and play our game."