Michael Youngblood and his Burke County teammates lost the 1997 state championship by two points to Thomas County Central. Now the Bears’ defensive coordinator, Youngblood got redemption Saturday night.
After Burke County gave up a pair of early scores, the defense locked down to help the Bears defeat Peach County for the school’s first state title, 28-14.
“I coached my butt off,” Youngblood said. “I wanted to make sure all those people who put in the blood, sweat and tears throughout Burke County’s history have something to be proud of.”
ELITE COMPANY: With Saturday’s win, Burke County coach Eric Parker became the sixth man to win a state championship in Georgia as a player and a coach.
Parker, who won a title as a player in 1983 at Mitchell-Baker, and Calhoun’s Hal Lamb joined the short list this year.
EMOTIONAL WIN: This victory wasn’t just for the team, the fans and the community.
For Kadarius Burdette, the win was also for his brother, Keshon, who lost his life in a drag race accident in late November. Keshon was a spectator.
“I’m playing for my little brother,” Burdette said. “I’ve had the support of the team behind my back.”
The senior had a big play for his brother during Burke County’s first touchdown drive of the game.
With the Bears trailing 14-0 and facing a third-and-long, Donquell Green found Burdette open down field for a 35-yard gain.
“I knew it was a critical (situation). We needed a first down,” Burdette said. “Coach told me, he said, ‘Run your arrow good.’ I saw they were playing press coverage and the middle of the field was wide open.”
Just one week after the team’s motto was “together” to show support for Burdette, the player and his team got to smile, wearing shirts with “FINISH” printed on them.
GAMBLE: Even with Burdette’s catch, the Bears didn’t complete the drive until after a crucial fourth-down decision.
With a fourth-and-4 on the Peach County 9-yard line deep in the first half, Burke County faced a dilemma: go for it or kick a field goal.
The Bears had already been stopped on a fourth down attempt earlier in the game, but this time the play rested in Corey Mayton’s hands.
The quarterback kept the ball and chugged forward for eight yards and the first down.
Mayton scored on the next play. Then, Burke County added touchdowns on two of its first three drives of the second half to go ahead for good.