RICHLAND SPRINGS — After 15 seasons and a state-record eight state championships, Jerry Burkhart is departing Richland Springs for a job in the 11-man ranks.
Burkhart on Monday night was named the head coach of Class 3A Stanton, which owns a 7-32 record over the past four seasons and last won a playoff game in 2010. During Burkhart's tenure in Richland Springs, the Coyotes posted a 194-10 mark. For his career, Burkhart owns a 198-16 record.
“I've been here for 15 years and this has kind of been all we've known,” Burkhart said. “This town has been very special to me, and these kids that I've coached in the past will always be instilled in my heart. It's a tough decision, but sometimes I feel like you need to step out of your comfort zone. I still have the desire to see if I can do it at the 11-man level, I feel real good about it and I feel that God has given me an opportunity. It's crazy how things fell into place, but I was blessed to get the job and I'm excited for the kids at Stanton, excited for the town and ready to go to work.”
Transitioning to the 11-man game after building the most successful six-man program in Texas history will be a challenge, Burkhart admitted, but one he is ready to face head on.
“Both games go hand-in-hand and unless you've coached both you don't really understand that,” Burkhart said. “It still comes down to blocking, tackling and fundamentals. There are a few more men on the field and in 11-man you have safety help over the top and in six-man you don't, but the games are very similar. What I have to do is pick an offense that fits the type of kids at Stanton and pick a defense that will allow us to be successful. It's a challenge for me to see if we can put together a great coaching staff and also develop these kids into state champions.”
Burkhart left Richland Springs once before, taking the job at Gordon in 2013 before reuniting with the Coyotes weeks later following a change of heart. The Coyotes went on to capture state titles in 2015 and 2016. Burkhart indicated there is no chance of a return to Richland Spring this time.
“Last time going to Gordon it was about me,” Burkhart said. “Gordon did nothing wrong, it was about me chasing money. I did it all in a selfish manner on my part, but this time it's a family decision. My son Jordan is a senior and he's going to be valedictorian, so he and my wife are going to stay so he can finish and graduate at Richland Springs. It's a new challenge for my son Landon, he's a freshman, but I just feel like God's had a hand in this the whole time.”
While Richland Springs determines who will be the successor to Burkhart, who takes over at Stanton on March 1, assistant coach Thomas Tipton will lead the offseason program in the meantime.
“I'm very excited that I'm leaving the program in good hands,” Burkhart said. “Coach Tipton has been with us quite a while, and I don't know what the board is going to do yet, but he is the guy that's going to handle the reins until they make that decision.”
Looking back on a decade-and-a-half run that will likely never occur again in six-man football, Burkhart said, “We've raised the bar pretty high and done some great things here and this community's been awesome. I'm very blessed, but this hasn't been about Jerry Burkhart, it's been about the whole coaching staff and all the players. You put yourself around a bunch of good coaches and kids that work hard, they gave so much effort and bought into what we were doing. One of the hardest things was to walk away from these kids, but I feel very comfortable that it's been left in good hands and the tradition will continue. I don't deserve all the credit, God deserves that, but it has been a great run.”