Burkman to leave Piggott for Scott City

Wednesday, March 27, 2002

PIGGOTT Piggott High School lost its second state tournament-qualifying head coach in as many years last week as Mohawk football coach Jason Burkman was hired as the head football coach at Scott City, Mo.

Last year, Lady Mohawk head volleyball coach Angie Donner left Piggott for Pocahontas after leading the Lady Mohawks to a state runner-up title.

Burkman, a four-year head coach in Piggott, takes over the Scott City Ram program after taking the Mohawks to two consecutive state playoff appearances. In 1999, Burkman led the Mohawks to their first playoff appearance in 30 years. The following year, Piggott hosted their first-ever playoff game in school history after posting an 8-3 record. During Burkman's stint at Piggott, the Mohawks had a combined record of 25-17. In the six years prior to Burkman's arrival, Piggott was 8-52, including a winless season the year before he took over.

Burkman will replace Stephen O'Brien, who resigned from the Scott City coaching position after going 10-10 in two seasons.

"I feel very privileged to have this opportunity," Burkman said. "Scott City is a real football town and they have a good tradition. I have been very impressed with the school and the administration."

Scott City is located approximately 10 miles south of Cape Girardeau.

"It's a larger school than Piggott," Burkman said. "About the size of Pocahontas."

Burkman said that he felt like he had hit a dead end in Piggott.

"I feel like I've gone as far as I can go here. At Scott City I'll have the opportunity to finish my masters degree and my wife can finish her college. It's also going to be a very good move for my kids. The school is very well disciplined and they are really behind the football program. The whole town supports the football program, but most of all, they support the personnel.

"I felt the Scott City administration and board members bent over backwards to get me. I was very impressed by the fact that board members personally called me at home and asked me to go up there and visit. They are really proud of their community and really made me feel at home."

One thing that Burkman is looking forward to at Scott City is having ample assistants.

"I get to hand select four varsity assistants and two junior high coaches," he said. Burkman will also be the weightlifting coach and will oversee and do the purchasing for equipment for a new 60x80 physical education structure, which will include a new weight room and media room.

He said he also has the opportunity to become the school's athletic director in his second year.

"It will be good to have extra sets of eyes on the sidelines," Burkman said of having assistants. "I'll be able to more things than I have in the past."

Scott City has a strong reputation as a power football team, but according to Burkman, the last couple of years haven't been as strong.

"They want to get back to the tradition of smashmouth football," he said. "That suits me perfectly." Burkman's offense normally runs in a double-tight set and he has been known to "run it up the gut."

"We passed the ball a lot more this past year at Piggott," he said. "But that was because we were fumbling so much. It got to the point where I would rather throw an interception than lose another fumble."

Burkman was offered the defensive coordinator positions at Hoxie and Huntsville, but chose Scott City because; he said, "It's just a good fit."

"I'm a football coach. That's what I do, and Scott City is giving me everything I need to get that job done the best way I can."

Burkman was first considered for the job when Willie Wilthong, a Scott City school board member and former Scott City football coach from 1965-1995, saw films of Burkman's Mohawks.

"He said it was the same style of football he coached there for 30 years," Burkman said. "It's something they've wanted to get back to for awhile."

Wilthong, originally from Paragould, after considering 20 other applicants, recommended Burkman to the other Scott City board members. After interviewing Burkman, the board unanimously agreed and Burkman was offered the position. Monday, Burkman submitted his resignation to Piggott High School and broke the news to his players.

"I've had a good experience at PHS," Burkman said. "We've had many accomplishments that the kids and I are very proud of. We revived the football program and brought winning football back to Piggott. We instilled pride back into the kids and got to experience the playoffs. The kids did what many people thought would never be done in Piggott and that was to have winning seasons in one of the toughest conferences in the state. We had back-to-back winning seasons and hosted a playoff game for the first time in school history. People are going to be talking about those accomplishments for many years down the road.

"One regret I have is that we weren't able to beat Rivercrest. We've beaten everyone in the conference at least once besides them. I really wish we could have accomplished that."

Burkman said that other teams in the conference have a new respect for Piggott.

"The kids have worked very hard and deserve all the respect they've gotten. I feel like they would have run into a brick wall for me," he said. "I'm really going to miss them."

"Another regret I have is not winning a playoff game. We did what we needed to do to make it to the playoffs, but just couldn't get that first round win. I've always felt that we could have won more games. Looking back, I see where we could have done more. My lack of experience was probably a missed opportunity for the 1998 team. They had a decent year, winning five games, after going winless the year before. All in all, I'm proud of what I accomplished here. I had good community support. I just hope that in the future, all sports at Piggott High School will become more unified."

Burkman said there were dozens of people he wanted to thank for their help over the past four years.

"I want to thank Nick Yount, Benny Fry, Lee Holifield and all the others who helped with the game clock, the scoreboard and the chains. The booster club was the lifeline of the program. Dennis Bellers did a great job on the field and I want to thank Penny Veal for taking care of our books."

Scott City athletic director Fred Graham said he is very excited about Burkman becoming the new Ram head coach.

"We're looking forward to him coming up here and being successful with the program," Graham said.

Last year the Rams finished the season with an uncharacteristic 3-7 record. Scott City made the playoffs as recently as 1999 when they finished 10-2.

"This is a great opportunity for me and my family," Burkman said. "The whole town loves football and they're treating me great. I will enjoy having all the tools to build on an already strong program."

Burkman and his family plan to move to the Scott City area this summer.

"We're probably going to have to build," he said as he strolled along the banks of his pond on his 20-acre property in Pollard. "I just hate to sell this land, it's been in my family for years. I've walked on every square inch here."

Burkman, who takes hunting as seriously as his football, will undoubtedly enjoy the hills of the Missouri Ozarks.

"The area fits me and my family perfectly," he added. "If it didn't feel right I wouldn't be doing it."

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