The Edinburgh Community High School football team has had more than its share of frustrations during the past two decades. Edinburgh has not had a season .500 or above since going 7-3 in 1993. The Lancers, who never have won a sectional, snapped a 52-game losing streak in 2009.
“With any program that hasn’t experienced success, abundantly the hardest thing to overcome is to know they can win,” Lancers second-year coach Derrick Ball said. “Even through we have small numbers, we have a fairly talented group. In the time I’ve been here, I’ve seen we have good athletes. It’s just getting them over the hump knowing they can do big things.”
Ball is used to winning. He was a starting offensive lineman for Warren Central, playing on Class 5A state championship teams in 2003 and 2004. He also played offensive line on a University of Saint Francis team that lost in the NAIA championship games in 2005 and 2006.
“It helps that I can try to pass on what I’ve been though and what I’ve experienced to them,” Ball said. “We’re trying to build that winning attitude and know a series of small victories lead to a large one. That and instilling hard work in these kids. Edinburgh is a hard-working community, and we try to instill that into our boys as well that we need to be a hard-working football team. We have some kids that have bought in a little more.”
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As with many smaller schools, numbers are a concern. Edinburgh has a 25-player roster.
The team has only one freshman at the moment because the middle school program, made up of seventh- and eighth-graders, was canceled last season. The middle school will field a team again this year.
Ball is still trying to add reinforcements.
“There still a couple of kids roaming the halls we’d like to get that could make an impact (if they play),” Ball said.
The coach said one key will be having success early.
“Our schedule may allow us to do that this year,” said Ball, whose team opens at Brown County on Aug. 19. “If we can build confidence early, get a win or two early in the season, I think that can instill some confidence in our boys and set us up for future success.”
At minimum, Ball said the goal is to finish .500 this year.
Senior Zachary Smiley, who returns as a starter at linebacker and running back, said Ball is a strong motivator.
“He pushes us to our limit,” Smiley said. “But he doesn’t push us to the point where anyone quits or we can’t handle it. The year before Ball came, we weren’t in the weight room as much. There wasn’t as much intensity. Now we’re in there Monday, Wednesday, Friday every week.”
Sophomore Bryce Burton, who started at receiver last year and saw action at quarterback as well, is optimistic.
“I like the way our team is feeling,” Burton said. “Our offense is looking good. I think our defense can stop some people. We’re out here working our butts off, so I think we’re going to be all right. (Ball) is a great coach. He’s got us in the situation to win games; now it’s our turn to play.”
2016 football schedule
Friday;at Brown County;7 p.m.
Aug. 26;at North Decatur;7 p.m.
Sept. 2;Oldenburg Academy;7 p.m.*
Sept. 9;Switzerland County;7 p.m.
Sept. 16;South Decatur;7 p.m.
Sept. 23;Milan;7 p.m.
Sept. 30;at Traders Point Christian;7 p.m.
Oct. 7;Wes-Del;7 p.m.
Oct. 14;Southside HomeSchool;7 p.m.
* — at Mount St. Joseph
Coach: Derrick Ball
Last year: 2-8, lost to Oldenburg Academy 47-12 in Class A sectional opener
Who’s back: Offense — Zachary Smiley, senior RB/LB; Bryce Burton, sophomore QB; Jacob Atha, junior WR. Defense — Grant Godsey, sophomore LB; Noah Martin, senior LB.
Who’s gone: RB Shane Smith, QB Gentry Lane, WR Marcus Ruch
New kids on the block: Addison Lollar, senior WR/DB; Austin Burton, senior WR/DB; Tavian Cosby, junior OL/DL; Alex Kirby, junior OL/DL; Dakota Balthazor, freshman WR/DB.
Outlook: The offensive line averages about 6-foot-1, 250 pounds, a pretty large group for a small school. Another strength will be a linebacking crew that returns nearly intact, led by Smiley, Godsey and Martin. Godsey had 80-plus tackles last season. “Martin is a hard-nosed kid who fills gaps well and makes a lot of tackles,” Ball said. With a 25-player roster, Ball expects five or six players will go both ways. Smiley was the No. 2 running back last season. “He is a good, hard runner,” Ball said.
Ball says: “We’ve got a lot of keys coming back on the offensive line. Almost all of our defense is back, mostly linebackers and secondary. We’ve had some 7-on-7 tournaments this summer, and our defense is a lot farther along than a lot of defenses normally are in the summer. We’re excited about this year.”
First & 10 with … Zachary Smiley, Edinburgh senior running back/linebacker
1. What would you consider the team’s greatest strength going into the season?
Probably our offensive line. They’ve worked very hard this year. They’re looking really good.
2. What is something you feel the team still needs to improve upon?
We need to improve on remembering our routes and getting through them faster.
3. “One game at a time” clichés aside, which game on your schedule are you looking forward to the most?
Oldenburg. They beat us in sectionals last year and should have never have beat us.
4. What does the team like listening to pump up before a game?
We like listening to “Our House.” We like listening to rap music.
5. What is the most critical part of your pregame routine? Any particular superstitions?
No one has any superstitions on the team. We all get ready our own way. We sit together and we talk and we play around. We try to liven the mood up.
6. What is your least favorite football team, pro, college or otherwise, and why?
Tennessee Titans — just never liked them. I have three favorite teams. I like the Colts, Seattle and Denver.
7. If you could sit down to dinner with one athlete, who would it be?
LaDainian Tomlinson. He’s always been my favorite running back.
8. What’s the biggest difference between last year’s team and this year’s team?
We’ve improved so much on our offensive line. We’re so much stronger. They’ve been in the weight room more. They’ve all started to click more.
9. Edinburgh fans will be proud of this team because…
We’re going to be a winning team this year. We really work well together.
10. If you could write the script for the 2016 season, how would it end?
We win our sectionals this year. That’s how I’d write it.