With 31 players on his roster, Derrick Ball carries a slightly different set of responsibilities than those running Johnson County’s other five varsity football programs.
Ball, the second-year Edinburgh coach, doesn’t have the luxury of applying concepts such as player specialization, three-deeps and a junior varsity team.
And yet every Friday night, the Lancers make it work.
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“The luxury a small school does not have is numbers,” said Ball, whose team is off to a 1-3 start — including two losses by a total of five points — entering Friday’s home matchup with South Decatur. “It’s a unique challenge, and the kids seem to enjoy it.
“It’s a sense of pride they have. The ability for them to do multiple things and not one thing. You have to learn both sides of the playbook.”
In some cases, more than that.
The majority of Lancers are called upon on both sides of the line of scrimmage. However, Kyle Armel, Parker Bryant and Grant Godsey spread their workload even thinner with special teams duties.
Armel’s responsibilities run from receiver to cornerback to kickoff coverage to kickoff returns. The 5-foot-8, 140-pound senior is a fixture on both of the Lancers’ punt units.
“I do it because I was born into athletics, and it builds character and teaches you responsibility,” Armel said. “I take a lot of pride in everything that I do. I’ve always been taught to give my all in everything I do.”
Bryant, a junior receiver who lines up either at safety or linebacker when Edinburgh is playing defense, is on the front line when the Lancers receive a kickoff.
Armel and Bryant have been part of the Edinburgh Community Schools since kindergarten.They’ve understood from the first time they laced up a pair of football cleats what would be expected of them.
Bryant stopped playing football after his eighth-grade season, but after a two-year hiatus, he’s back.
“A bunch of my friends talked me into doing it,” Bryant said. “Not having a lot of players is something we’ve been doing since bantam league. I like it. I find it fun.
“I think there’s pride there because not everyone in the school does this.”
Earlier this season, Edinburgh struggled with fatigue in the latter stages of ballgames. That happens in small-school programs as there are fewer players available to rotate in and out of the lineup.
Edinburgh began the 2015 season with 27 players and ended it with 21, but the team is in better shape this year. Ball is working toward developing interest among the school’s non-football-playing students so that the participation numbers continue to increase.
Ball said 40 players are needed for the Lancers to be able to field a junior varsity team for the first time in decades.
“The community is recognizing the amount of hard work and commitment these players put in. Not just football at Edinburgh, but every sport,” Ball said. “Part of (football) is just appealing to their sense of brotherhood.
“You can get out and be a part of something. I’m a firm believer that sports provides increased structure, and that kind of structure appeals to a lot of kids, too.”