High school teammates, college buddies, groomsmen and coaching rivals -- West Point's Heith Yearwood and Cold Springs' Tim Burleson have moved up the prep coaching ranks in Cullman County together as good friends and now respected competitors.

"Tim is such a good coach and always has his team prepared to play each week," said Yearwood about Burleson's Eagle bunch. "It's always a challenge to face Tim, but it's always fun going against a friend."

Burleson and Yearwood played basketball together in the mid 1980's at West Point High School with the former graduating in 1986 and latter in 1987.

Burleson was a starting forward on the Warriors' county championship teams in 1985 and 1986, while Yearwood played JV ball in '85 and was a part-time varsity starter on the '86 squad.

"That last season, we were a pretty senior-laden team," Burleson said. "Heith would come in off the bench and run point. He did a real good job because he was a good passer and quick. He is very knowledgeable of the game.

"I played the two or three position. It was a pretty good team that season that won the county championship. Coach (Randy) Jones, the JV coach at West Point now, was on the team and Willard Waldrop, who is the head coach at Meek."

After high school, Burleson and Yearwood attended Wallace State Community College and Athens State University together.

Before marrying their wives and becoming head coaches at their respective schools, Yearwood and Burleson spent a lot of time together.

"I have been good friends with Tim since high school" Yearwood said. "After school and before we got married, we used to run around together."

While in college, both former Warrior ballplayers began their coaching careers side-by-side as the co-head coaches for West Point's JV team under legendary skipper Mickey Campbell.

"We coached the JV team for two years in college as co-head coaches," Burleson said. "The most valuable thing we learned was building a team from day one up until the games start. Once the season starts, you prepare your team from game to game. But we learned how to build a team from mid-October to the opening game."

When Campbell left West Point to become the principal at Cold Springs, Burleson soon followed his mentor.

Much like Yearwood, Burleson worked his way up the coaching ladder and became the head coach for the Eagles' varsity team.

"My first year (1991) at Cold Springs, I was the JV basketball coach and assistant junior high football coach," Burleson said. "Keith Thrasher resigned after my first season and I got the head coaching job. This is my 14th season as head coach for the Eagles."

Yearwood stayed at West Point where he worked his way up the coaching ladder.

"I was the head coach of the junior high team at first," Yearwood said. "Then I moved up to head coach of the JV and took the head coaching position three-years ago. Becoming a head coach is something I always wanted to do and being the head coach at West Point is great."

Yearwood admitted the coaching styles between the two skippers is similar thanks to familiar backgrounds.

"We definitely have a lot of similarities in coaching," Yearwood said. "We have basically the same philosophies because we are from the same background."

This season, the two coaches have split meetings with each other. Each school defended their respective home courts with West Point notching a double-digit victory on Tuesday night.

"We beat them at the Thanksgiving tournament," Burleson said. "But they put it on us pretty good Tuesday night."

The 2005 rubber match for Burleson and Yearwood may come in the county tournament.

"Heith and I go way back to high school and college," Burleson said. "I think the world of Heith. He was in my wedding. Playing West Point always carries extra meaning, because it's where I came from. But coaching against Heith adds a little more. It's definitely a friendly rivalry."

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