New Burke County coach shares what’s next for football program

Published: Feb. 6, 2023 at 4:39 PM EST
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WAYNESBORO, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - After leading the Burke County Bears for 16 seasons and 33 years of coaching, Coach Eric Parker is stepping back.

He has decades of success with 200 wins, a state championship, and multiple region championships. Parker is leaving the program in the hands of Franklin Stephens.

He started coaching in 1996 and has made a name for himself across Georgia. We sat down with him to see what’s next for the program.

“I’m Burke County. I was born and raised here all my life. When you say Burke County Bears, that’s special to me,” he said.

Stephens wore the blue in ‘91, played at Georgia Southern, and returned to the Bears sidelines as an assistant in ‘96.

Now, he’s back where it started.

“You get an opportunity to come home, but I get an opportunity to move closer to my mom. I mean, that’s important to me right now. My father passed a couple of years ago, and you know, when you’re three hours away, or three and a half hours away... it’s hard to get there and do simple things like cut the grass,” he said.

The two-time All-American is only the ninth coach to wear the whistle.

“One of the charges that one of my mentors has given me is to come back and impact this community. And when I was here as an assistant coach, I didn’t get that opportunity. Now, I’m kind of in charge of it all. So everything that happens in this program falls upon me,” said Stephens.

While it’s only week one on the job, the mission is simple.

“What do we need to get done today to be the best we can do? Being the best we can be each and every day and giving our best,” he said.

He knows changes don’t happen overnight.

“Some guys, they’re a little afraid of it. Some guys embrace it. But at the same time, you know, this program is going to move on,” he said.