Derrick Ball doesn’t promise immediate results. Yet he isn’t suppressing expectations.
A first-time varsity head football coach, his objective is to build a winner at Edinburgh Community High School. And he plans to do it sooner rather than later, despite the Lancers’ decades-long struggles.
“It’s time to build a winning tradition now. It’s not going to wait,” said Ball, who inherits a program that hasn’t finished above .500 since 1993.
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Not only that, the Lancers have endured eight winless seasons since 1997 and have won only four sectional games — including one by forfeit — since 1994.
Edinburgh has never won a football sectional championship.
Ball, 28, is determined to put the Lancers on a winning trajectory. And despite his lack of head coaching experience, his football pedigree suggests he has the qualities to do the job.
Most recently the offensive coordinator at Anderson High School, Ball also has been the offensive coordinator at Park Tudor School and was an offensive line coach at his high school alma mater, Warren Central.
Prior to those coaching stops, Ball made a name for himself as a high school and college player. A starting offensive lineman on two of Warren Central’s state championship teams (2003 and 2004), he went on to play four seasons at the University of St. Francis.
Now in the fledgling stage of leading his own program, Ball is imparting his wisdom to the 30 players in the Lancers’ Class A program.
So far, he likes what he sees.
“I like that the kids are receptive to learning,” said Ball, who was hired in May after the retirement of predecessor Bill Unsworth. “I know that a new system is hard to learn, but they’ve been quick learners. They’re willing to learn.
“In turn, they’re willing to put in the effort that it takes to perfect what we’re doing.”
Fortunately for Ball, he has a somewhat stable foundation to build on. Under Unsworth’s five-year direction, the Lancers won 16 games, including a 5-6 campaign in 2013, which marked dramatic improvement from previous years.
But the work is by no means finished and is, in many ways, only beginning.
With the Aug. 21 season-opener a week away, the Lancers — who spent much of the first week of practice learning the new system — are only now starting to hit a physical stride.
“With the learning curve, being physical has kind of taken a backseat,” Ball said. “But now that we’ve started to not only understand but are really grasping the concepts that are being taught, we’re starting to pick up the intensity more.”
Among the first orders of business is selecting a starting quarterback, something Ball expects will happen today.
Senior Bobby Simpson, last year’s starter, and senior Jentry Lange, who was sidelined last season with a broken collarbone, are vying for the position.
“They both have their pluses and minuses,” Ball said. “We’re leaning towards one, but we’ll probably know by (today).”
Regardless who wins the quarterback sweepstakes, Ball is confident the offense will be in good hands, especially with the addition of move-in student-athletes Shane Smith and Marcus Ruch.
Smith is a 6-foot-2, 175-pound senior running back from Anderson High School. He also plays defensive end. Ruch is a 5-11, 185-pound wide receiver from Fort Wayne Northside. He also plays cornerback.
“They’re pretty good,” Ball said. “Shane’s a physical running back. He’s got pretty decent speed, as well. (Ruch) is fast and tall. He can get downfield and get up on people real quick.”
Bolstering the Lancers’ offensive fortunes are the return of linemen Carigan St. Pierre, Sean Bacha and Noah Martin. St. Pierre is a 6-1, 270-pound senior. Bacha is a 5-11, 295-pound junior. And Martin is a 6-1, 220-pound junior.
“We’re just now starting click (up front),” Ball said. “I would say our biggest strength is probably going to be our run game. We’re physical.
“We like to kind of battle it out in the trenches, and I think our understanding of the offense really helps, as well. We’re kind of cerebral, if you will.”
Although the Lancers return precious little experience on defense, Ball is encouraged by its potential. St. Pierre (defensive line), Simpson (secondary) and Gentry (secondary) are among a host of athletic players expected to provide a boost, along with the additions of Smith and Ruch.
Besides those players, Grant Godsey (cornerback), Zach Giles (defensive line) and Bryce Burton (safety) are expected to make immediate impacts as freshmen, most likely as starters.
Edinburgh opens the season against visiting Brown County.
“To measure our success throughout the season, we just have to keep getting better week to week and build off what’s being taught,” Ball said. “We may not be running everything perfectly by Week 1, but by Week 10 we should have it all down. We’re still worried about wins and losses.
“It’s time to build a winning tradition now.”
Aug. 21;Brown County;7 p.m.
Aug. 28;North Decatur;7 p.m.
Sept. 4;Arlington;7 p.m.
Sept. 11;at South Decatur;7 p.m.
Sept. 18;Tindley;7 p.m.
Sept. 25;at Oldenburg Academy;7:30 p.m.
Oct. 2;Traders Point Christian;7 p.m.
Oct. 9;at Wes Del;7 p.m.
Oct. 16;Southside HomeSchool;7 p.m.