Oct. 21—Roxy Burris has been a part of myriad football games over a long and distinguished career.
He's best known as an assistant coach at Pueblo South High School for more than two decades. But he also was a head coach for the Colts and is currently a volunteer assistant coach at Colorado State University Pueblo.
As the 63rd annual Cannon Game between the East and South high school football programs approaches at 7 p.m. Oct. 22 at Dutch Clark Stadium, Burris, 74, relates his experiences and memories of one of Pueblo's top prep football games.
A graduate of Central High School in 1965, Burris has always had football in his blood. He was an offensive guard for the Wildcats and a defensive end during his career.
He remembers vividly losing the Bell Game between Central and Centennial his junior year but winning Pueblo's biggest game as a senior.
"We didn't win too many other games that year, but did win the Bell," he said.
Burris was a football-only athlete. He found out right away that upperclassmen had the upper hand.
"I made the varsity my sophomore year along with another sophomore," he recalled. "I was so excited. But then I realized the only reason I was on the varsity was to carry all the bags to the bus. I was a glorified equipment manager."
After graduating from Central, Burris went to then-Southern Colorado State College (now CSU Pueblo), receiving a degree in education. He did his student teaching at South and was asked to join the football staff.
He started his coaching career as a volunteer in 1969 with John Denardo at South. Denardo retired after that season and Bill Sabo took over as the head coach after a stint at Fountain-Fort Carson.
"Bill asked me, 'Are you the volunteer assistant? I can pay you $300,' Burris said. "Myself and Bobby Graham ran the junior varsity and when the offensive line coach retired I moved up to the varsity under Sabo.
"Pat Smith and I were assistants near the end of the 1970s and Bill was going to retire. Pat and I both applied for the job and we told each other whoever got the job there would be no hard feelings.
"My daughter was ill at the time and I needed to take care of her so at that point I called the principal and told him I was going to pull my application."
Smith was named the head coach and Burris remained an assistant. A few years later, Smith decided to go on sabbatical and asked Burris to be the interim head coach.
Burris did just that and took over the program for the next two years.
His teams won the Cannon Game both years.
Burris actually coached in the Cannon Game for two decades as an assistant. But he also coached in the game three different times as the head coach. He won all three of those games in 1991 and 1992 and again in 1997.
One of his first memories of the Cannon Game came in his first year as an assistant.
"I remember that when we first played against East, we played for a trophy with a light bulb on top," Burris said. "The winner of the game got to keep the trophy. I don't know what it represented and don't know whatever became of it."
Burris also recalls one of the best Cannon Game pregame speeches he ever heard from another assistant coach, Dave Lockett, who had a spectacular career as the Colts' head boys basketball coach.
"Dave was our defensive coordinator and known for some fiery pre-games," Burris said. "We would always measure his pregame speeches as one-veiners, two veiners or three veiners because veins in his head would start pultruding when he talked.
"He brought all the defense into the wrestling room, started to talk and told them to get up, go across the foyer into the hallway where the cannon was. Everybody gathered around the cannon and coach Lockett said: 'I want you to think about what you are going to say Monday morning when you walk into the building and the cannon isn't here.'
"Then we would go on the bus and go play the game."
Besides his interim coaching stint where he was the head coach in two Cannon Games, Burris also took over after head coach Tim Graham was ejected in a previous game.
"I remember we were playing at Harrison and we were hit with an unsportsmanlike foul for illegal equipment," Burris said. "Some of our kids didn't have their knee pads or hip pads in their pants so that flag went to the head coach. Graham was suspended for the next week and it just so happened to be the Cannon Game.
"Our principal Jim Wesley called a meeting with our coaching staff at 6 a.m. the following Monday morning. He told us that this is a big week (Cannon week) and he wanted everything aligned and wanted somebody to be able to talk to the officials if there's a problem.
"The staff decided I'd be the spokesperson so I became the head coach for that week."
Burris said the Cannon Game has always been a big deal at South and East.
"The Cannon Game, it was big because everybody in town on the South Side and East Side got involved for that week," he said. "It didn't matter whether your team was 0-4 or 4-0, it was always competitive. And great for the community."
Burris sums up his coaching career with a quote.
"I had good days and great days. I tried to temper the highs and when there were lows I'd try and bring them back up a little bit," he said.
He also relates this quote he told his players that remains a constant in any game:
"Do your job. That's how I always looked at the East game. Do your job, do what you can do, do your best and play for 60 minutes," he said.
Perhaps his best memory was a story involving former Denver Broncos head coach Dan Reeves: "We were playing Cherry Creek in a playoff game in the late 1980s. We lost 27-19 and a couple calls didn't go our way. In our locker room, kids were upset and there was a knock at the door. Everyone told our manager not to let them in and the manager said, 'you have to let this person in.'
"In walks Dan Reeves (whose son played for Cherry Creek) and he asks for permission to talk to our team for a minute. He told a story of his last high school game that was a loss and even though it hurt severely the sun did come up the next morning. He said to learn from it and improve and realize the sun will come up regardless. Then he went around and talked to some players."
Burris also coached track and field at South for two decades. He retired from teaching in 2000.
In his three head coaching stints at South, his overall record was 16-5. His teams were 8-2 in 1991 and 7-3 in 1992.
He joined John Wristen's staff at CSU Pueblo as a volunteer assistant offensive line coach when the program was reinstated in 2008. He continues to coach.
"I'm more technique-oriented than system-oriented," he said. "I go to practices on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and go to all the home games but only a few in-state away games."
One thing Burris is most proud of is not ever being flagged for an unsportsmanlike foul as a coach.
"I never recall getting flagged as a coach," he said. "I made it a point to meet with the head official before every game. I would tell him I'm so glad to see you and glad that you are here.
"I would do that with the head official to put something in the back of their mind."
Burris isn't one to dwell on the past.
"I sit with other coaches who can remember every snap, every game, every score," he said. "I'm not wired that way. I like the competition but when the game's over, it's over and we get ready for next week."
Coaching records in the Cannon series with two or more wins:
Mark Haering 12-0 100%
*Roxy Burris 3-0 100%
Pat Smith 8-3 73%
Ryan Goddard 7-4 64%
Bill Sabo 2-2 50%
Bill Corder 4-2 67%
Andy Watts 2-2 50%
Keith Lane 4-5 44%
— Roxy Burris was the interim head coach for a game in 1997
Source: David Mihalick
Chieftain senior sports reporter Jeff Letofsky can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @jeffletofsky
Source : https://news.yahoo.com/cannon-game-memories-run-deep-011500642.html1560