By MIKE SHAFFER
For the Star Beacon
On the soccer field this fall Lance Butler had one role with the Edgewood soccer team — score goals. It was a role he enjoyed.
“That’s definitely my favorite part of the game,” the senior said. “When you hear the crowd cheering and you get to share the moment with your team, it’s a great feeling.”
“That was his one role, it was pretty simple,” Edgewood coach Kevin Santee agreed. “I didn’t ask him to play defense, or come back and play midfield. We asked him to keep moving, keep floating and keep expecting balls to come through.”
Scoring is something Butler did well as he filled the net a team best 22 times this year for Edgewood.
But It was another role, one that carried off the field, that he may be best remembered for this year by his teammates, coaches and himself.
As a four-year letter winner, and team captain, it was the role of leader that presented a challenge as tough as any defense he faced this year.
“Lance knows my expectation from my players and my captains,” Santee said. “I expect them to provide leadership, to be there all the time. At the beginning of the season he missed some practices and things like that.
“I have a lot of respect for Lance, but I have a lot of respect for my team too. I said to him this isn’t acceptable. You’ll have to step down as captain until you show us that is the role you want.”
Butler not only accepted the challenge he embraced it. In doing so he not only won over the respect of his teammates and coaches, but has also been selected as the Ashtabula County Player of the Year as voted by the coaches.
As one of just three seniors on a young Warriors squad this year that finished 5-11-2, Butler, who has been playing soccer since the age of 4, remembered that conversation about leadership with his coach well.
“I was a little disappointed in myself,” he said. “I knew I needed to be there for my team, I needed to step it up”
Step it up he did, as his coach and teammates noticed.
“He not only took that challenge from me and met that expectation from me, but he superseded it multiple times,” Santee said. “He stepped back and took a look at himself as a person inside and said this is what I really want. For the next couple of weeks after, he stepped forward and led us. He went above and beyond my expectations and that shows the real character of him.”
Teammate Erik Hodges echoed the coach’s sentiments.
“He was a face out there that people could go to,” Hodges said. “He really stepped it up this year, he’s a great guy that was always giving 110 percent.”
Butler led his team in scoring this year, he also led the Warriors to their biggest win, a 6-3 victory against rival Conneaut in a Division II sectional semifinal — a game that he scored four goals.
“They’re our biggest rival and beating them was one of my goals all through high school.” he said.
It was the Warriors third meeting with their rival. In the first match they squandered a 3-0 lead and needed to come from behind to earn a 5-5 tie. Conneaut won the second meeting, 3-2.
“They’re a great program and we have a lot of respect for them,” Santee said. “The last couple of years it seems they have our number.
“We always seem to outplay them but come up on the wrong side of the scoreboard.”
With the team captain scoring four times, the third game was the charm as Butler made certain Edgewood came out on the right side of the scoreboard.
“I guess that’s a quad-trick,” Santee joked. “The boys played phenomenal that game, they passed, they possessed, they played good defense, they did everything we’ve worked at all year. And for Lance to score four goals, that was a great way to end his senior year against a good friendly rival.”
Upon graduation Butler plans on trading in his soccer shoes and shin guards for a hammer and tape measure as he plans to pursue a career in carpentry.
For Santee, it means he will need to replace an individual who was responsible for more than 60 percent of his team’s scoring.
Butler’s scoring will not be the thing only thing missed by the Edgewood program.
“As our seniors move on, we ask them to be role models,” Santee said. “Our focus for our team this year was to be unified tightly, to be a family. With a lot of young players, Lance was one of the guys we needed to be a role model. He far exceeded anything we asked him to do this year. We’re not going to try to fill his shoes because they can’t be filled, but what we can hope is that the younger players see his role model and want to be like that.”
Shaffer is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.