Glen Rose Beavers adjust to life without star running back

Published July 31, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
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Glen Rose running back Carlos Burton (No. 23) runs away from Charleston defender Taylor King (No. 35) during the 2013 Class 3A state final in December at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

GLEN ROSE — There are certain telephone calls that a coach dreads.

Glen Rose head football coach Mark Kehner got one of those phone calls in early June when Tim Horton, a former Arkansas Razorback player and coach and now running-backs coach at Auburn University, phoned Kehner to deliver the news that the Beavers’ star running back, Carlos Burton, had injured himself while doing drills at Auburn’s seniors camp.

Kehner said Horton informed him that Burton caught a swing pass, planted his right leg, made his cut to run upfield and went down to the ground in pain. Auburn’s trainers examined Burton, and Horton told Kehner they were “highly concerned.”

Their concern was justified.

After Burton returned home, an examination confirmed that he had torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, ending his high school football career.

“He’s probably made the same cut a million and one times,” Kehner said. “It’s just a freak injury.”

Now the Beavers have to get used to life without a star running back who had gained more than 5,000 yards in his two-year high-school career, including 2,446 yards last season and 39 touchdowns. The loss of Burton makes an already-thin senior class even thinner.

“When you’ve graduated so many good football players,” Kehner said, “and he was the main cog that held that class together — you pluck him out, and all of a sudden, you are looking out for some senior leadership.”

The Beavers now have 11 players in the junior and senior classes combined, which will obviously give some important playing time to a few inexperienced sophomores.

“They are a good group of 10th-graders,” Kehner said, “but they are 10th-graders. Their 15-year-old bodies are going to be playing against 17- or 18-year-old bodies. It’s OK to start two or three, but it’s not OK to start eight or nine.”

As far as the running-back position is concerned, Kehner and the Beavers are searching for viable candidates to fill Burton’s vacancy, a predicament that is new to the veteran coach.

“I have been here 12 years, and I’ve never started out a season without a bell-cow running back,” Kehner said.

No matter what, Kehner said, the task at hand for the Beavers, who were widely predicted to win another 3A-5 Conference title, is to play football and not worry about who isn’t on the field.

“We are still going to play 10 football games,” Kehner said. “We’re just going to play 10 football games without Carlos. There are 10 guys on Glen Rose’s schedule that want to kick our teeth in. We can feel sorry for ourselves, or we can go to work and try to find a way to win without Carlos, and that’s where we’re at.”

The Beavers have responded well, Kehner said, in team camps this summer, lining up against the likes of Hot Springs, Hope, Malvern and Arkadelphia — teams that are above the Beavers in classification.

“They are showing up every day and going to work,” Kehner said. “That’s all I can ask. It’s [the coaches’] job to find a way to put them in the best position to have a chance to win football games. Our sophomore class never played with Carlos, so it’s no different with them.”

The Beavers finished 2013 with a 12-2 record, losing only their opener to the Malvern Leopards and the state championship game to Charleston.

“All we know how to do around here is work hard,” Kehner said, “and that’s what we are going to continue to do.”

Glen Rose will open the season at home against the Malvern Leopards on Sept. 5.

Staff writer Bruce Guthrie can be reached at (501) 378-3527 or

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