Edgren needs numbers to host big game on new field
Stars and Stripes | .
published: September 06, 2016
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan – They’ve waited a long time, but it’s finally happened – Robert D. Edgren now has a turfed field to call its own.
Whether it has a team that can host a Division II Far East championship game is another matter. After fielding plenty of depth to start the 2015 season, the Eagles are hurting for bodies and are hoping with school starting.
“We need a good, solid seven more,” said third-year coach Jeremy Sanders, gazing at the 17 he had suited up at practice under a blazing late-August sun. “We’re still waiting for players to PCS in. If we can get more bodies, we should be OK.”
Junior Austin Price is one of a handful of returnees, doubling at linebacker and running back for Edgren.
In addition to low numbers, the Eagles don’t have much size in the interior. They had several who tipped the scales at 200-plus a season ago; unless a couple of wide bodies come in, only senior Elijah Pugh possesses such size.
The rest are fairly small, with only a handful of returners – five total, all of them starters.
Pugh and the rest of the line will try to create openings for a stable of quick running backs including juniors Matt Keating and Austin Price, plus sophomores Raphael Lykins and Tyler Donaghe.
At the controls of Sanders’ power-based offense is Patrick Sledge, a senior who will also double as a defensive back and even as placekicker.
“He’s our jack of all trades,” Sanders said.
The lack of numbers could date back to late in the season, Sanders said, following the Eagles’ 57-22 loss Oct. 23 to Yokota. Edgren began the season with as many as 35, but found themselves down to 17 by season’s end. That’s the benchmark at where they’re starting this season.
“The numbers are low enough as it is. Injuries will make it even worse,” Sanders said, adding that he and his assistant coaches are racking their brains to come up with ideas to boost participation. “We don’t want to lose the program,” he said.
Players who are out are being worked hard, doing plenty of conditioning and weight work to build up strength and endurance and help prevent injuries.
“Conditioning, strength and technique – those were keys during two-a-days,” Sanders said. “A lot of players will go all three ways; some might never leave the field. Just in time for the new field.”
On the bright side is that turfed field, which was inspected and approved for use. The field turf was installed over the late spring and early summer, and replaces the mostly dirt surface with some patches of grass that some in the community called the “cow pasture.”
“This is ideal,” Sanders said of the turf. “I could cut down on my 40 on this turf, and my playing days are way over.”
“Fast field. Great reaction, better reaction, less injuries,” Sledge said.
Edgren opens with three road games, and plays its last four on its new field, something that Sanders said he hopes can be a “carrot” to get more players out for the team.
“That’s a goal, see if we can win four in front of the home crowd,” Sanders said. “A motivational tool.”