The strongest kid at Edinburgh Community High School combines bests in the squat, bench press and power clean to total 1,015 pounds.
Senior lineman Alex Kirby, a blend of strength and experience, will be one of the primary components behind whatever success the Lancers football program enjoys this season.
Kirby is expected to anchor both lines starting with the season opener Aug. 18 at home against Brown County. He’s one of only eight seniors on a varsity roster expected to be comprised of somewhere between 25 to 30 names.
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Growing up in Edinburgh, home of the lone Class A school playing football in Johnson County, prepared Kirby for the rigors of playing both offense and defense.
“If anything, it’s helped me out and made me more dedicated,” Kirby said. “You know you’re going to be playing both ways, so you push harder through that extra rep and run that extra mile.
“I know a lot of the guys on the team look up to me, so if I break ….”
Kirby missed the final three games of the 2016 season with an ankle injury. He finished with 29 tackles, 1.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
Growing up, Kirby idolized Dakota Sneed, a 2014 Edinburgh graduate now playing football at Butler University.
“First off, he was just an absolute hoss,” Kirby said of Sneed, now a redshirt junior projected to be the Bulldogs’ starting center this season. “I remember I came up from middle school and practiced at the high school for like a week.
“On one play, I came off the end and he just blew me up. I thought then about how cool it would be to be like that.”
Kirby is a football player willing to lead both vocally and by example.
If it means additional weightlifting sessions or outdoor grunt work such as flipping tires, Kirby is the guy. If it means getting in a teammate’s ear about how a play is run or the commitment required to perform at the varsity level, he’ll do it.
“Alex is 100 percent the leader of our team,” first-year Edinburgh coach Jason Burton said. “He’s put a lot of work in this summer doing individual workouts even on days we didn’t have workouts. He should have a very good season for us.
“(Senior leadership) is very important for us because, ultimately, we are in rebuild stage. Having a senior leader that these other players are looking up to is huge.”
Edinburgh’s 2017 football schedule (all games start at 7 p.m.):
Aug. 18;Brown County
Aug. 25;North Decatur
Sept. 1;Oldenburg Academy
Sept. 8;at Switzerland County
Sept. 15;at South Decatur
Sept. 22;at Milan
Sept. 29;Eastern Greene
Oct. 6;at Wes-Del
Oct. 13;Trinity Lutheran
1. Traditional rivalries aside, who are you most looking forward to playing and why?
Our season opener against Brown County. We were up at halftime and they came back and beat us.
2. If football didn’t exist, how would you keep yourself busy in the fall?
I don’t know, honestly. Football has always been a thing that I’ve done since I’ve been able to walk.
3. If you could trade bodies with one of your teammates, who would it be and why?
Probably Jayden Harcourt, because he can pull out a back flip from anywhere. It’s pretty impressive. You’ll be walking with him and say, “Jayden, do a back flip,” and he’ll do it.
4. Name something fans will see from this team that they’re not expecting.
Just how fluidly we’re going to play together. I think this team so far this summer and early in the school year has built a bond that hasn’t really been there in the past. In the third quarter if we’re down is when our older players will pick the younger guys up. There are a lot of leaders on this team, and that’s going to help us a lot.
Coach: Jason Burton (first year)
Last year: 3-7, lost to North Putnam 40-0 in first round of Class A sectional
Projected starters: Dillon Simpson, senior WR; Tavian Cosby, senior OL; Jordan Myers, junior OL; Ethan Armel, junior OL; Alex Kirby, senior DT; Zach Murphy, senior LB; Hunter Dean, junior DB
Others to watch: Tyson Sackman, sophomore QB; Austin Streeval, freshman WR; Jayden Harcourt, sophomore WR; Dakota Balthazor, sophomore WR; Zach Clarkson, freshman OL
Outlook: A former Lancers football player, 2011 Edinburgh graduate Burton takes over as head coach. He hopes to improve upon last season, when the team won three games and lost two others by a total of five points. Dean is the top returning tackler, having made 43 stops last season. Edinburgh has won only three of its past 20 season openers but hopes to reverse that trend at home against Brown County on Aug. 18. The Eagles beat the Lancers 21-20 a year ago.
Burton says: “I like the fact that we’re young. We have very good freshmen and sophomore classes with a good eighth-grade class coming up. We also have a good group of senior leaders that’s helping us transition. Ultimately for us, our goal is to beat the teams we should beat and continue to build on success throughout the year.”