Cates is a home run hire

Former Eastern Randolph coach Burton Cates has been hired by Lee County.

Former Eastern Randolph coach Burton Cates has been hired by Lee County.

Um, good hire.

How’s that for the understatement of the year?

Or the decade.

Lee County made official on Tuesday night what’s been rumored since the end of February — 25-year veteran and state championship-winning coach Burton Cates is coming to headline the Yellow Jackets.

Not bad. Not bad at all.

Cates is a home run hire. While Jody Stouffer’s resignation still rings a little hollow for how it went down, tabbing Cates as his replacement is better than could have ever been expected when the position came open on Jan. 16.

Cates led Eastern Randolph with remarkable consistency, leading the Wildcats to 19 state playoff appearances out of 25 seasons. He has a 236-81 career record for a .744 winning percentage. He won the state championship in 2006 in a tremendously competitive 3-AA bracket, one year after guiding the Wildcats to the state championship game. Cates is 34-18 in the postseason and has been recognized statewide by the NCHSAA as a past Male Coach of the Year.

Also — and this shouldn’t be taken lightly — Cates is adored by Eastern Randolph fans, which certainly includes a number of alumni who played for him, and the high school Internet message boards are blowing up about the devastating loss for the Wildcats.

Where things go from here is yet to be written, but past success is a pretty good indicator. While Lee County recently became an area that split its football talent pool with the opening of a crosstown school — not dissimilar to what Cates went through with the recent opening of Providence Grove High School — it’s still hard to ignore the 46-10 record Cates and Wildcats put up in the four years before 2008. And the Tri-8 Conference wasn’t exactly the toughest league in 4-A football last season. Competitive? Yes. Deep? No.

The Jackets got a great football coach. And from what you read and hear, they got even more than that. 

The gushing has just started.

Chances are that gushing will be validated.

And soon.

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Filed under Lee County High School, N.C. playoff brackets, N.C. State Championships, Prep sports, Tri-8 Conference

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