RICHMOND - Derrick Stickles is back at Edison and he has quite a task ahead of him.
The 2002 Oak Glen High School graduate was named the Wildcats' new football coach Tuesday, replacing Mike McKenzie, who stepped down in November after seven years at the helm.
"I am looking forward to this opportunity," he said. "I know we have to raise a lot of money because I don't want anyone to have to pay-to-participate.
"I figure we have to raise about $20,000 and let some of that money trickle down into the junior high program because the numbers there are very important, too. I remember how excited I was looking forward to playing high school football and I want these players to feel that same thing."
Edison's football numbers took a hit last season when a $250 pay-to-participate fee was added after another failed levy attempt.
"I want to be part of the solution," said Stickles. "There is a group of kids at Edison who are looking for something to believe in and I think we can give them that. We have to maintain a positive outlook on everything we do."
Stickles played four years as a running back at West Liberty. He owns the career rushing mark with 3,690 yards and is second on the list with 37 career touchdowns and 4,841 all-purpose yards. He owns the single-game rushing mark with 348 in 2003.
He won three straight wrestling state championships at Oak Glen - at 160 pounds as a sophomore and junior and at 171 as a senior.
Stickles coached for one year for the Hilltoppers before graduating; spent two years on Tony Filberto's staff at Oak Glen, coaching the outside linebackers and running backs; two years under McKenzie at Edison, coaching the offensive and defensive lines and outside linebackers; and spent last year on Ian Whittington's Golden Bears staff as the offensive coordinator.
"It was very difficult for me to leave Edison the first time," he said. "I understood the importance of calling plays on Friday nights, all the adjustments you have to make, along with all the prep that goes into Friday nights. Knowing that is crucial to being a head coach. I needed to understand the game as much as possible.
"It's one thing to understand the game as a player. You have your responsibility and the basic knowledge of those around you and you use those people toward the ultimate goal of getting the ball into the end zone as an offensive player. As a coach, you have to understand everything and what everyone is trying to do.
"As a running back, I have to know where I need to hold the ball when I'm running and you always cut with the outside leg, not the inside leg - things like that. It takes time to understand, as a coach, a position you've never played before and it's important to learn every position. I tried to coach as many positions as possible to know as much of the game as I could.
"It's also very difficult for me to leave Oak Glen, but there is something about the Edison, about the community that really draws me there. I have this excitement, that is constant, now knowing that I am going to be a part of it again. I'm looking forward to it so much.
"It was a great experience coaching at Oak Glen. It has been a part of every chapter of my life, from pee wee to middle school and high school football and wrestling and then football at West Lib. And, last year being a part of Ian's staff was a very enjoyable experience. I learned a lot through that experience.
"I am looking forward to being in charge and trying to implement what has evolved in my head throughout all those years."
Stickles received a good word when the Hancock County Board of Education was "nice enough to let me out of my contract" and he will finish at Oak Glen on Jan. 18 and begin working in the Edison Local School District on Jan. 22, where he was approved as a physical education teacher.
"The previous relationships that have been built at Edison are crucial," Stickles said. "You have to have the support of the administration to be successful. Everybody needs to be a part of this to be successful. If people really want to be involved I can find something for them to do. There is a lot of work to be done and I can think of a lot of things that need to be done.
"I am prepared and I feel like my family is prepared to be fully active in this process. The first order of business, like I said, is fundraising so no one has to pay-to-participate. In addition to raising a lot of money, we have to train the athletes to get ready for the season. I need to solidify the coaching staff and where those coaches are going to coach.
"When I was here two years ago, we had a lot of kids in the weight room, so I know they have dedication and I know they are hard workers.
"What happens on the football field is one thing - the winning and losing. But, the way people see you, the way you are in the community is just as important. We also have to teach the players the process of being part of an organization. We have to teach them things that they are going to take into the world. It's important these kids know they are going to have a positive effect on other people."
As for the X's and O's with the Jimmy's and Joe's, Stickle is open to anything.
"Since I'm a running back, obviously I like to run the ball. But, I also understand the game is changing. It's not what you like to do, but what can you do. We have to adapt with what we have. What we have is what we are going to do. If we have a running back who can run and a fullback who can block, we are going to line up in the I and run the ball.
"If we have an athletic quarterback and athletic running backs and athletic receivers, we are going to be a read-option team.
"We have to figure out who is going to end up where, establish a system and we will run and focus in and run that system. The same thing will happen defensively. We will play what defense best suits us.
"I'm just looking forward to walking down the halls again."