J.Z. George High School is in the market for a new head football coach after Ben Burton turned in his resignation papers this week.

Burton has spent the last six years roaming the sidelines and spearheading improvements to the athletic facilities at the North Carrollton school. He has accepted the defensive coordinator position at Winona High School. Burton, his wife and three children (they are expecting their fourth child in June) live in Winona.

“This move will benefit my family. I’m leaving J.Z. George at this time because this move is in the best interest for me and my family. We will be closer to where our kids will attend school, and it will hopefully help my wife and me grow in our profession,” said Burton, who logged a 25-47 overall record as head coach of the Jaguars.

Burton will be joining several former J.Z. George coaches on the Winona staff. Joey Tompkins, who served as head coach at J.Z. George, is the current head coach of the Tigers. Chris McRae, also a former head coach of the football team at J.Z. George, is the head track coach, and Mark Austin is the head coach of the baseball and soccer teams. He was head baseball coach at George before his move to Winona.

The Jaguars were only 3-8 overall and 0-4 in Region 2-2A this past season, but showed signs of improvement and were competitive in nine of the 11 games. They started the season 2-0, lost three straight and got to 3-3 with a homecoming win over Leake County. However, the Jags were hit with five straight losses to close the season.

With the outbreak of the new coronavirus during the week of spring break for the schools, it’s been five weeks since Burton has seen his players. They would have been starting spring football Monday.

“Not being in school, I’m not able to get closure with my kids. I guess it made the decision easier with us being out of school. I haven’t been around them for over a month. I haven’t had a lot of communication with the kids. I’ve spent this time focusing on my family,” Burton said.

Burton took his teams from 2014-2016 to the playoffs. In 2016, the Jags went 8-5 and finished 3-1 in Region 2-2A. They opened the playoffs with a 47-7 victory over East Union but were bounced in the second round with a 35-0 loss to Calhoun City.

In 2015, J.Z. George finished 5-8 overall and 2-2 in Region 2. They opened the playoffs with a 28-16 win over Leflore County and lost 31-0 to Baldwyn in the second round. In his first year in 2014, the Jaguars finished 7-6 and went 3-2 in Region 3-2A. They beat Hatley 37-7 and lost to Bruce 39-6 in the next round.

During Burton’s tenure, a new fieldhouse with offices for coaches, a new weight room and lockerroom has been built for the football team.

“From a football standpoint, we’ve been able to add on new facilities, buy new jerseys and equipment each year, and our numbers are up each year. Kids now want to come out and play football,” Burton added. “Whoever comes in as the next coach is coming into a better situation because of all the effort that has been put in to improve this program.”

nContact Calvin Stevens at cstevens@gwcommonwealth.com.

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