Eastern Randolph coach Burton Cates to be enshrined in hometown

Another honor is coming for Eastern Randolph football coach Burton Cates. (Randolph Record file photo)

GRAHAM – Eastern Randolph’s Burton Cates, the winningest active high school football coach in North Carolina, is receiving hometown recognition.

He’ll be inducted into the Graham Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday night.

“Being from Graham all my life, it’s very special recognition,” Cates said. “What I’ve accomplished isn’t about me by any stretch. It’s about the people around me.”

Cates, 71, has more than 360 career coaching victories. Eastern Randolph won the Class 3-AA title in 2006.

Even when Cates left the Wildcats for a nine-year stretch at Lee County, he continued to live in Graham.

“Small-town feeling,” he said, “We’ve always lived in Graham. Good location, good people.”

Cates returned to the Eastern Randolph post in 2018. The Wildcats have posted double-digit win totals in the past four full seasons (not counting the abbreviated spring 2021 season because of the pandemic).

His son, former Eastern Randolph quarterback Foster Cates, was on the Lee County coaching staff and returned to Eastern Randolph as well. He’s the school’s athletics director.

“It worked out just perfect,” Burton Cates said. “Having your son with you is special. I’m fortunate to do that.”

The elder Cates said he’s unsure how long he’ll keep coaching.

“I told Foster he could fire more whenever he wants to,” he said jokingly.

When he went back to Ramseur for the second stint, he said he would stay only four years. That, of course, has been extended.

“Change is not big on my list,” Cates said.

Cates has served in various coaching roles in special games, including in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas and the North Carolina East-West All-Star Game.

The stadium on Eastern Randolph’s campus was named Burton Cates Stadium in 2016 before his return for a second stint.

Cates graduated from Graham High School in 1970 before going on to Wingate and Mars Hill for college.

By Bob Sutton