He had played in three state championship football games, helping his team win two consecutive, and then headed off for college figuring he would come back to Midway High School as a coach. That is, even though several folks tried to steer him to different careers.

Larry Burchett grins about it all now.

“Everybody said, ‘You are not going to get rich doing it,’” Burchett said. “But I wasn’t looking for money. When we were growing up, we didn’t have a lot of money. Mom and Dad farmed.”

Burchett went on to harvest quite a career himself, coaching high school football for 45 years as his Xs and Os, magic touch and hay wagon – yes, a hay wagon – helped fuel success of the Midway High School Football Program. Which is why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame proudly inducted Burchett with the Class of 2020.

The fall of 2020 marked Burchett’s 32nd as head coach of the Midway Vikings (MSHOF 2020), a Class 1 program amid Cass County’s farm country just south of metro Kansas City. With a record of 257-106, his tenure included a 1996 state championship along with nine Western Missouri Conference crowns, 15 district titles and three other state semifinal berths (1988, 1992, 1997).

Yet that’s only a portion of his body of work. You see, Burchett was among nine sophomores who started for Midway’s 1968 team, a state runner-up. He then went on to be part of all six of Midway’s state championships (1969, 1970, 1976, 1978, 1982, 1996) either as a player, assistant or head coach.

And, along the way, he started a hay hauling crew at age 14, later deploying it in his coaching days as a summer offseason conditioning program for his players.

“A majority of our All-State guys worked on the hay wagon,” Burchett said. “It shows toughness. You’ve got to be able to handle the heat and learn to work when you’re tired. I thought that made you a very tough person.”

Burchett himself has rolled up his sleeves and put in the work. He graduated from Midway in 1971 and from William Jewell College in 1975. At which point he returned to Midway, spending 44 of the next 45 years there. (He was head coach at Owensville in 1979.)

Along the way, Burchett worked for three head coaches, including Laurel Hobick, an important mentor.

“You can never copy somebody else, but you pick up the things that are important,” Burchett said. “You’ve got to be yourself. If you aren’t, kids see through that. If they don’t get the true you, you probably aren’t going to last. And (Hobick) let me call plays. He let me coach.”

Both of those traits have served Burchett well. Because he doesn’t appear overbearing, his conversational style enhanced player-coach relationships. Additionally, Burchett put trust in assistants, which helps explain why Jim Riggs (27 years), Bryan Stahl (18 years), Doug Carder (29 years), son Brett (16 years), Chad Dean (21 years now) and principal Bob Weltsch stayed on for years.

“I’ve had a lot of guys who have been very loyal and part of any success I ever had,” Burchett said.

Burchett experienced it himself. In the 1978 state championship season, Hobick let him call the plays, including against rival Adrian. The Vikings trailed 7-3 with 30 seconds left, and Burchett called for Quick Pitch Left.

“(Hobick) said, ‘You know it’s fourth down, right?’” Burchett recalled. “I said, ‘It’s been working.’ And we ran it in 16 yards for a touchdown. It was beautiful.”

Eventually, Burchett and Carder were promoted as co-head coaches in 1988, after John Denny left for Odessa in late July. Burchett was given the full title in 1992.

Among the keys to success was that Burchett also coached the boys basketball team from 1980 to 2009. He amassed more than 400 wins and won four district titles (1986, 1987, 1988 and 1997). But he made it a point to share athletes with the football team – a necessity for a Class 1 school.

Overall, for Burchett, Midway has meant everything. He thanks, Jan, his wife of 48 years, for her support and raising their children, Brett and Lindsey. He also tips his hat to players, parents, administrators and the community.

“There have been some opportunities around us (to coach). But I just never looked at them,” Burchett said. “When I sit back, I think how fast it’s gone. It’s been 45 years, and that can’t be possible. I have been really fortunate.”