• 55°

Enterprise, West Lincoln hunt coaches

Enterprise and West Lincoln are in the hunt for new headfootball coaches. The rural communities in Lincoln County are niceplaces to live and raise a family. Raising a football program abovemediocrity is another matter. To say the least, it is extremelydifficult.

At Enterprise, veteran head coach Roe Burns is stepping down atthe end of the school year. Health reasons, mainly an irregularheart beat, are a major contributing factor to the 60-year-oldmentor’s decision. Burns coached the Fighting Yellow Jackets forthree years, compiling a 10-21 worksheet. They made the Class 1Astate playoffs 3 years ago, finishing 6-5.

According to Enterprise principal Shannon Eubanks, the search isunder way for a person to fill the football/athletic directorposition. The Jackets moved up to Class 2A this season and sufferedthe expected consequences. They finished 2-8.

Eubanks said, “We are looking for a proven coach who is capableof leading and building our athletic program. We want him toestablish his own regime of weightlifting and conditioning.”

Spring practice is tentatively set for mid -April.

To his credit, Burns came out of retirement three years ago toserve as offensive coordinator under Mac Bezet at Enterprise. A1965 Enterprise graduate, Burns had devoted 20 years as head coachat Loyd Star before stepping down in 1999.

He said Enterprise dressed 44 varsity players this season. “Weonly had four seniors on the team when the season finished.”

“The kids are real dedicated right now,” said Burns. “They knowwhat it takes to lift weights and go through a summer conditioningprogram.”

He has two sons in the coaching/teaching profession. Brodie isan assistant at Lafayette County in Oxford and Brooks recentlyresigned under pressure at West Lincoln. Coaching is in their bloodand Brooks, 35, wants to coach football next season, somewhere.

Since the football program was launched at West Lincoln in 1998,the Bears have found little success. If you count three juniorvarsity victories, the varsity Bears have compiled an overallrecord of 8 wins and 93 losses in n-i-n-e years.

Football is supposed to be a fun activity for youngsters.Unfortunately, the Bears received more cheap shots in the school’shallways than they did on the gridiron. Annual losers, they drewlittle respect from their classmates, no matter how many hours theyspent toiling through offseason workouts and preseason practiceunder the broiling August sun.

Brooks spent four years at West Lincoln, compiling a woeful 2-41record in his first head-coaching job. He and his wife and their 3sons moved home to Lincoln County from football-rich JonesCounty.

Asked about the Bears, Burns said, “The kids playing footballare good kids and they are fun to work with. They do everything youask them to do.”

Burns said the West Lincoln community has been very supportiveof the program, building additions to the field house. “I wish wewould have had more student-athletes participating.”

And that my friends, is the bottom line.

“If your best athletes don’t play, it’s difficult to compete ata school our size,” said Burns. At a 1A school, athletes are askedto play more than one sport. In football, numbers or availablebodies are critical to a team’s success.

For the unknowing reader, West Lincoln is a traditionalbasketball power. The Bears last won a state basketballchampionship in 1982 but they have been regulars in the stateplayoffs, often reaching the state tournaments.

In football, the Bears are members of Region 4-1A, consideredthe strongest region in Mississippi. Puckett, the 2006 statechampion, dominated again in 2007. Mount Olive is an annual titlecontender, too. Pisgah and Pelahatchie also are strong residents,along with Bogue Chitto. Region 4-1A has been compared to the SECbut on a much smaller scale.

West Lincoln principal Jason Case has seen six head coaches comeand go since 1998. Former principal Perry Miller launched thefootball program and the Bears immediately jumped into varsitycompetition, suffering the expected consequences. The field wasnamed in Miller’s honor after he was elected Superintendent ofEducation but the sign is hidden behind the home-side bleachers,more of a grimy reminder than a sparkling icon.

Preston Gordon coached West Lincoln the first 2 years beforedeparting. He won 1 game, a history-making victory over Clarkdale,the small school in Clarke County.

Case said the community craves a winning football team. If youcould resurrect legendary coaches Vince Lombardi and Paul “Bear”Bryant, that would be no guarantee for overnight success. It takestime, resources, lots of dedicated players, plus enthusiasticstudent and administrative support to achieve championships.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O.BOX 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or e-mailsports@dailyleader.com