Kenny Burton says he has “all the respect in the world” for the West Point High football team, and the Ridgeland High head coach isn’t just saying that because his team is playing the defending state champion.
He certainly holds West Point in the highest light for his time that he spent there as a coach. Burton served as the Green Wave’s defensive coordinator in the mid-’90s.
“I lived in the city of West Point for seven years,” Burton said.
After a stint as Houston’s defensive coordinator, Burton has found himself in Madison County. In his eighth season at the helm, he has guided the Ridgeland Titans to a 13-0 record and a spot in tonight’s MHSAA Class 5A semifinals.
His Titans team plays at West Point (12-1), the Daily Journal’s third-ranked large school.
“The North goes through West Point each and every year,” Burton said about West Point’s success in the postseason. “We’ll be ready to play. We won 13 ballgames and we’re 13-0 for a reason.”
While West Point has a storied program, Ridgeland’s is pretty much brand new. The Titans played their 100th game last Friday night against New Hope.
The Madison County high school opened in 2002.
“We’re such a transient community with many people moving in and moving out,” Burton said about coaching in a growing area. “We’re liable to have a couple kids come in each year and we’re liable to have a few come in and not play for us. We’re also liable to have a few move out.”
With its oldest alumni being in their mid-20s, Burton finds himself coaching in a completely different atmosphere than he did at West Point, where the players’ older brothers, cousins and even their fathers had donned a Green Wave uniform. West Point has won six state titles, while Ridgeland is working on its first.
Still, the Neshoba County native enjoys the challenges of coaching an upstart program.
“It’s been fun,” Burton said. “It’s a great place to work and I like where we’re headed.”
John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal