OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — A local coach who died from COVID -19 last weekend was remembered Friday as Olathe East took the field for the first time since his passing.
The school received special permission from KSHAA for players to wear decals with the initials CB in Friday night’s away game vs Shawnee Mission Northwest. Everyone was wearing them in the stands as well supporting Coach Chris “Cheese “Burnett.
Counselors were at school and at practices since his passing Saturday. But shortly after Chris Burnett succumbed to COVID-19 the team made a decision.
“Everyone knew they were going to play. That wasn’t a choice, coach would want them to play,” Olathe East Athletic Director Kaleb Stoppel said.
Burnett’s extended family came to the game wearing his favorite color, red. They said they were supporting their loved one and Olathe East.
“It’s going to be emotional, it’s going to be a roller coaster. But we also are here for the boys because we want them to know that “Coach Cheese” would want them to play,” his mother Carolyn Burnett said before the game.
As Olathe East players took the field they were led by Burnett’s son. Before the game there was a moment of silence and a presentation from the Kansas City Chiefs to the family, a Chiefs football with his name on it.
Both Olathe East students and the team’s opponent, Shawnee Mission Northwest wore red too. The family stood at the 50 yard line for the coin toss, as both team’s entire rosters gathered around them in a show of solidarity.
“We knew he worked with a lot of kids but we didn’t realize the magnitude of the kids he actually touched in this community, it’s truly amazing,” Kim Burnett, the coach’s father, said.
Olathe East scored the game’s first touchdown before falling behind 31-16 at halftime. Players were asked if they felt they needed to win for “Coach Cheese,” but it was one night where the final score perhaps wasn’t as important as simply taking the field.
“They all replied he doesn’t care whether we win or lose he would want us to enjoy the game he would want us to have fun and enjoy our brotherhood together,” Stoppel said.
Olathe East’s Booster Club plans to sell “Coach Cheese” t-shirts ahead of next week’s home game with portions of the proceeds going to the family.