Former PNG coach Burnett picks up whistle again

Published 8:09 pm Friday, August 18, 2017

Nine seasons after his last game at Port Neches-Groves, Matt Burnett had never lost his flair for coaching.

And he hardly had to knock off any rust.

“Kids are kids. Football is football,” Burnett said. “I’m having a great time. I’m slipping right back in it. It’s what I did for so long, for 34 years. Fun to be back in the groove.”

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After more than a year of retirement, the man who led PNG football for 15 seasons (1994-2008) joined Randy Crouch’s staff at Little Cypress-Mauriceville as a defensive line coach.

Crouch, who’s going into his ninth season leading the Bears, has known Burnett since the latter was senior on PNG’s 1974 4A state semifinal team.

“I was coaching at LaTech (Louisiana Tech) when he was playing at Lamar,” Crouch said. “I remember him playing and remember trying to recruit him. That was a long time ago.”

Crouch and Burnett had crossed paths as opposing coaches as well.

Burnett, 60, coached one year at Vidor, two at Klein Oak and one at Nederland before joining the PNG staff in 1986. He was head coach the last time the Indians played in a state championship game (1999, lost to Stephenville in 4A Division II).

Burnett went 96-65-0 at PNG with three 10-win seasons, winning three district championships. He went into administration after 2008, working as coordinator of student services, attendance director, stadium manager, director of transportation and registration.

After retiring from PNG on Jan. 31, 2016, Burnett went into the realty business. But coaching was still in his blood.

He had to remain retired for a full year to draw his retirement benefits. Then in the summer, Crouch contacted him about an opportunity.

“I contacted him in January whenever my year was up,” Burnett said. “I’m working with a guy I know.”

But Burnett wasn’t going to land just anywhere.

“I wanted to go to a place where I wasn’t going to play PNG,” he said. “I could not do that. I had to be selective where I went.”

With Burnett’s addition, Crouch said the Bears’ staff is in an excited frame of mind about the upcoming season, which begins Sept. 1 at home against Jasper.

“I’m really enjoying the kids and help them be the best they can be,” Burnett said. “I’m 60. If I were 70, I could still be going.”

I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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