Whiteland strong safety Sam Walls let his fondness for the No. 87 be known at a young age.
He wanted to wear what his father wore.
From the time he was playing bantam football, Walls set his sights on maintaining the family tradition — at least numerically — once he made Whiteland’s varsity roster.
Greg Walls, a receiver for Center Grove in the early 1980s, also wore 87.
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“My dad was No. 87 all the way from middle school through high school,” Sam Walls said. “Me wearing his number is kind of another bond for us. I’ve worn it since seventh grade.”
High school football programs distribute jersey numbers before each season. Greenwood coach Mike Campbell aligns players with a specific number based on who he knows plans to be part of the program.
Those returning from the previous season typically keep the same number. Sophomores — and, at times, freshmen — talented enough to earn a spot on the varsity roster are then assigned one of the remaining numbers.
Typically, older players get first choice, though many are restricted based on the position they play. For instance, offensive and defensive linemen usually wear a number between 50 and 79, while quarterbacks tend to be 19 or lower and running backs a number in the 20s or 30s.
Obviously, there are exceptions, particularly with limited jersey availability.
Then there’s the legacy factor — a player requesting the number of a family member who may have competed for the same football program.
The latter is more common at small schools such as Edinburgh.
First-year coach Jason Burton, a former Lancers player himself, estimates 80 percent of the players on his roster request a specific number prior to the start of the season.
“We have a lot of kids whose fathers and brothers played in the program,” Burton said. “Sometimes I have to break their hearts and tell them an offensive lineman can’t wear No. 3.”
Junior lineman Ethan Armel takes the field for the Lancers as No. 63 — just like his brother, 2013 Edinburgh graduate Trevor, did.
“I’ve had No. 63 since my freshman season,” Ethan said. “Me and Trevor have always been really close, and he’s been a role model for me since I was a little kid.”
Sometimes honoring a family member isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Center Grove junior wingback Sam Hohlt wears No. 14 as a tribute to his oldest brother, Jackson, who played the same position for the Trojans from 2013-15.
“Honestly, when Jackson became No. 14, I thought it was cool because he’s the oldest brother. It was more a respect thing,” Sam said. “It all worked out because my brother, Eli, who is a seventh-grader, is wearing No. 29 (2017 graduate Trevor Hohlt’s old number) this season.”
Trojans coach Eric Moore allows players to make a request to have the same number of an older brother who once played football at Center Grove.
Even then, there is a waiting period.
“I try to accommodate kids with the number of their choice, if I can. We only allow guys whose brothers played here to have that number when they’re a junior or senior,” Moore said.
“Sophomore year, you get what you get.”
Center Grove senior defensive back Tyler Watson became enamored with No. 35 knowing that’s what his dad, Stephen, wore as a football player at Olivet Nazarene University, an NAIA program south of Chicago.
Stephen Watson previously wore a different number taking the field for Muncie North High School in the early 1980s.
“In second grade, it was my first year of football. As a second-grader you wanted to be like your dad,” Tyler Watson said. “I just thought I wanted to be 35 every year after that.”
He almost was. Watson wore No. 27 as a freshman and No. 33 as a sophomore before finally getting 35 back before the start of his junior season.
Whiteland senior center Garrett Curtis had the No. 65 handed down to him by former Warriors lineman Tyler Johnson.
“I’m trying to fill his shoes, or jersey, as a good player as well,” Curtis said.
Burton will sometimes present a player a number simply because he reminds them of someone from a previous era. Case in point, sophomore Jayden Harcourt wearing No. 32 this season because of his running style and work ethic being similar to 2015 EHS graduate Elliott Parmer.
Not every local program places such a large premium on numbers. Passing jerseys down hasn’t been a tradition at Greenwood in Campbell’s first 11 seasons as head football coach.
Campbell, the starting quarterback for Southwood’s Class A runner-up squad in 1990, adopted the philosophy used by the Knights back in the day.
“When you were a sophomore, they gave you a number and that was your number,” Campbell said. “I know we might be different than some other schools, but we’ve never made a big deal with certain numbers or a kid wearing a certain number.
“But if a player asks and that number is available, I wouldn’t have a problem with it.”
Whiteland at Center Grove
Kickoff: 7 p.m.
Webcast: wchsradio.cpcsc.k12.in.us, Centergrovefootball.com
Radio: KORN Country 100.3
Recent history: The Trojans have won all six meetings, including three of the past four by shutout. Whiteland’s best showing was a 14-13 loss in 2014.
Sagarin ratings: Whiteland 69.89 (57th), Center Grove 113.99 (second)
Players to watch: Center Grove — QB Jackson Moore, RB Carson Steele, DL Austin Daming, CB Tyler Watson; Whiteland — QB Iyan Pelfree, RB Evan Hillman, RB Preston Phillips, OL Garrett Curtis, LB Austin Cook
Keys to victory: The Warriors played New Palestine tough in the opener but hurt themselves with some key turnovers and missed opportunities offensively. They’ll need to be a little sharper against a group of Trojans eager to bounce back from their own Week 1 setback.
Greenwood at Indian Creek
Kickoff: 7 p.m.
Recent history: The Woodmen have won seven of nine meetings under coach Mike Campbell, including a 44-7 victory a year ago.
Sagarin ratings: Greenwood 71.32 (52nd), Indian Creek 55.57 (116th)
Players to watch: Greenwood — QB Seth Gallman, RB Brandon Rosado, TE Conner Battinau, DT Nick Young, DB Noah Compton; Indian Creek — QB Taylor Voris, WR/S Isaiah Lacey, WR/CB Brad Trietsch, DL Cameron Elmore, LB Grant Goforth
Keys to victory: Both teams more or less did what they wanted offensively in lopsided opening-week victories. Whichever defense can make some stops or force a turnover early could help seize the momentum for their side.
Franklin at Shelbyville
Kickoff: 7 p.m.
Recent history: The Grizzly Cubs had won five straight meetings before dropping the past two. The Golden Bears prevailed a year ago 38-26.
Sagarin ratings: Franklin 45.22 (170th), Shelbyville 76.45 (35th)
Players to watch: Franklin — QB Drew Byerly, RB Tyler Fromer, WR Blake Dicken, LB Tommy Reed, S Clayton Coll; Shelbyville — QB Landon Watson, RB Damon Lux, WR/DB Sam Lewis, LB Nathan Phillips
Keys to victory: Shelbyville has gotten off to a 6-0 start each of the past two years, averaging well over 30 points during those streaks. Can a Franklin defense that has struggled in recent seasons slow down the Golden Bears?
North Decatur at Edinburgh
Kickoff: 7 p.m.
Recent history: The Lancers have dropped 24 of the past 25 meetings between the two, with the lone triumph a sectional upset in 2013. North Decatur won both games last year by a combined 72-3 margin.
Sagarin ratings: North Decatur 38.38 (198th), Edinburgh minus-8.41 (320th)
Players to watch: North Decatur — QB Evan Smith, RB Ethan Herbert, RB Jacob Snider, WR Alex Stirn, LB Jacob Hartman; Edinburgh — QB Tyson Sackman, RB Austin Streeval, WR Dakota Balthazor, WR/DB Dillon Simpson, LB Zach Murphy
Keys to victory: Edinburgh actually displayed a bit of an aerial attack in its Week 1 loss to Brown County, but the lack of a ground game proved problematic. Can the Lancers establish the run early and keep the Chargers’ offense on the sideline?
Franklin Central at Roncalli
Kickoff: 7 p.m.
Radio: CBS Sports-1430 AM
Recent history: The Rebels have won six in a row, including a narrow 22-14 victory last season.
Sagarin ratings: Franklin Central 75.36 (42nd), Roncalli 96.13 (seventh)
Players to watch: Franklin Central — QB Dylan Bishop, RB Jaylen Brown, RB Michael Pitz, S Eli Weeks; Roncalli — QB Conner Gore, RB Patrick McManama, WR Jacob Luedeman, DL John Harris, LB Luke Hanley
Keys to victory: Not much seems to have changed for Roncalli, which rode its run game and defense to a state title last year and did so again in its opener. Can the defense hold against the experienced Flashes, fresh off a big win against Decatur Central?
— Compiled by Ryan O’Leary