K.J. Burton gets a call from Colorado State freshmen defensive back and former teammate Jadon Walker every Thursday.
The two talk about football and life in general during their weekly conversations.
Walker has been a mentor to Burton, who stepped into the role of the Chapel Hill quarterback spot.
Like Walker, Burton has led the Panthers into the first round of the Class AAAA playoffs. The Panthers will make the trip to No. 2 Ridgeland tonight.
“I’m just trying to help our team win as many games as I can,” Burton said. “As the quarterback and one of the captains, I’ve had to put the team my back at times. Coach has pretty much put the team in my hands.”
And he has proved to be very reliable in guiding the Panthers to their second straight playoff appearance.
Coming into tonight’s game, Burton has passed for 1,047 yards and 10 touchdowns while rushing for 719 yards and 13 scores. He leads a Chapel Hill offense that is averaging 255 yards per game.
He was named the All-Region 5-AAAA second team as a quarterback in a region that features some top signal-callers, including Trevor Lawrence of Cartersville.
“I didn’t feel any pressure coming into the season because I learned from Jadon,” Burton said. “I learned from him the last two years, and I felt it was my turn to lead the team. I learned from his mistakes. I feel it really helped me to watch him play.”
With Burton’s help, the Panthers finished the regular season at 6-4 and are the No. 4 seed from the region. He had three games where he scored the game-winning touchdown.
He did all that while also playing a lot at defensive back, especially in crucial game situations.
“It takes a lot to play both ways because you are going back and fourth,”
Panthers coach Justin DeShon praised Burton for his effort to lead the team back into the playoffs.
“He has overachieved in a way,” DeShon said. “He has played with four different centers the year and withstood the challenge. There were a lot of challenges on the offensive line, and he has done a great job.”
Burton showed his durability in a win over Sandy Creek by playing 100 plays.
“It is not something that we wanted him to do all the time, but he had the ability to take a pounding on offense and then play defense,” DeShon said.
The challenge today is trying to stop an explosive Ridgeland offense that runs the Wing-T, which the Panthers have scene several times this season.
“They have one of the best defenses in the state,” DeShon said. “It will be a big challenge against them. Ridgeland will definitely challenge us.”