By Paul Condry and Matt Kopsea
Cole Burton always seems to make good on his promises.
“Someone asked me early last year what my motto was going to be and I responded with ‘Shock the State’,” recalled the East Central High senior quarterback. “I’ve been playing with this core group of kids since first grade, so I knew what we were capable of. We just had to find a way to show the rest of the state.
“When I lifted the (state championship) trophy last year, I thought to myself ‘Mission Complete’. I was proud of our team and our success. Now, I’m ready to do it all over again this year.
The 6-foot, 190-pound Burton definitely played a major role in the Trojans’ run to the 2022 Class 4A state title by completing 98-of-159 passes for 1,794 yards with 22 touchdowns and running 51 times for 99 yards with six scores.
Now competing with a target on his back, Burton has avoided a letdown by completing 26-of-39 attempts for 391 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions and amassing 37 yards rushing on 10 carries.
“Positivity is a great outlook on the football field and our team does a really good job at staying focused, so it’s easy to stay positive,” explained Burton. “I try to lead by example with my attitude and effort. I try not to ever be complacent by taking each opponent serious knowing that they are scheming to defeat you.
“I try to take it week by week and game by game. We have big goals as a team, so I want to give 100 percent every day to help lead us successfully.”
Going back to his childhood, Cole knew football was going to be a staple in his life.
“During my early years, I have to give credit to my dad,” Burton recalled. “He was my first coach and coached me all through youth and travel select middle school ball. His love for the game launched mine.
“He and my mom have always made sure I was in quarterback training to better my skill. My quarterback’s coach, Coach (Lou) Sipe works closely with me trying to improve my skills on the field and in the classroom.”
Since taking over the controls as sophomore, Burton has prided himself with a solid work ethic on the field, which has resulted in him completing more than 60 percent of his passes, as well as his other activities.
“As a player, mistakes bring doubt, so I always try to have a next play mindset,” explained Burton, who also competes on the baseball team. “Moving on to the next play, not dwelling or overthinking my next move is how I go about things.
“Off the field, my mom has always preached priorities, so I try to make sure to keep up in my academics. Not wanting the classroom to ever come between me and the field, I’ve been blessed to achieve and maintain academic success throughout high school.
In addition to sharing the backfield with all-state back Josh Ringer (70 carries for 728 yards with 15 touchdowns), he also has the luxury of throwing to another classmate in Ryan Brotherton (13 receptions for 230 yards with three scores).
“I’ve had the opportunity to have one of my key receivers with me since my sophomore year,” Burton said of Brotherton. “We are friends on and off the field and have built a strong relationship. I think it’s key to have trust between my receivers and myself. With new receivers each year, you have to find a way to connect.
“In the off-season before this year, we spent extra time learning timing as well as spending time with each other. My goal for this year is to continue to get better and improve my completion percentage. I couldn’t have a better group of receivers to help me do that.”
Having Cole running the show has brought plenty of happiness to East Central head coach Jake Meiners.
“Cole Burton is one of the most impressive young men I have ever coached,” Meiners said. “He is a two-year team captain who is willing to do whatever he can to help his team win. He is constantly working with his teammates and our youth players. His leadership qualities are off the charts.
“He’s not only a great quarterback, but he is also a great baseball player and loves golfing. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to work with him every day.”
Burton feels the same about his boss.
“We have a great coaching staff here at East Central,” Burton said. “Coach Meiners and our coaches push us and know what we are capable of. Each week, they challenge us and it’s our privilege to implement their game plan.”
Although the ultimate goal is to make a return trip to Lucas Oil Stadium on Thanksgiving weekend, the main objective right now for the top-ranked Trojans (4-0) is taking care of business on the road against Batesville (4-0) on September 15.
“Every week, we need to find a way to improve,” Burton said. “We have to fix what we didn’t do correctly last week and try to build on each week to get better. In the end, winning another championship is what we are trying to achieve.”