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story.lead_photo.caption Andrew Roberson, the new football coach at England High School, stands next to the Gaylon Gibbs Field sign inside the stadium on the school campus. Roberson was hired earlier this year to replace Matt Garrett. Roberson was formerly an assistant coach at Conway Christian High School. - Photo by Mark Buffalo

— Andrew Roberson had aspirations of being a head high school football coach, and now he’s getting his chance.

Roberson was hired earlier this year to be the head football coach of the Class 2A England Lions. He comes to the south Lonoke County school from his alma mater, Conway Christian, where he’s been an assistant coach for the past seven years.

“Everybody has dreams, goals and aspirations to fulfill in their life,” Roberson said. “I guess that is just something I wanted to do. I wanted to be a head football coach. That’s something that I have wanted to do for a long time.”

Roberson is replacing Matt Garrett, who was 5-6 in his only season as coach of the Lions.

After graduating in 2007, Roberson attended Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, where he double-majored in biology and athletic training. He earned a master’s degree in education at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, then started working at Conway Christian in fall 2011.

“While I was getting my master’s at UCA, I started working at Conway Christian coaching football, basketball, and my first year was track. That was coach Michael Carter’s first year as head coach,” Roberson said. “The second year, Coach Carter promoted me to defensive coordinator from just coaching defensive backs and receivers. I also assumed the head baseball coaching position.”

Roberson said working under Carter, then Justin Kramer in 2017, gave him a lot of knowledge.

“I think [Carter] prepared me well,” Roberson said. “Being a year under Coach Kramer added a different angle, a different learning experience. I was just trying to learn as much as possible. I finally felt I was read to branch out and assume a head coaching position in football.”

When Garrett left the program, Roberson applied for the job.

“That opportunity presented itself,” he said. “I just wanted to take it and be thankful I was given that opportunity for Coach Scott and the school board here at England,” referring to superintendent Tyler Scott.

“So far, it’s been really good.”

England School Board President Jim Cheek said Roberson is familiar with the Lions from his time coaching against them at Conway Christian.

“He’s a good young coach, and he’s got a lot of energy,” Cheek said. “He’s really working a lot with the kids.

“I think he’s familiar with the kids because he worked at Conway Christian. He’s been around them the past five or six years, however long we’ve been in that conference with them.”

Roberson is the third coach in three years for the Lions. Terry Farmer coached the Lions to a 14-1 record in 2016.

Roberson said he wants to build a program at England.

“I think the big thing is, No. 1, that I’m here to develop a program,” he said. “If we go into the season and we’ve got blinders on, we’ve got to understand that we’re building a program for future years. That goes down into the junior high and seventh-grade levels as well.

“What we’re tying to do is establish discipline in the weight room, discipline on the football field, discipline for being at practice and an understanding of what the expectations are, as far as following though with being at practice, following through with giving 100 percent at practice. It’s just a mentality of not only being at practice but giving 100 percent when you are there.”

Offensively, the Lions will run the Spread.

“That is what I learned a lot from Coach Carter, then Coach Kramer as well,” Roberson said. “We’re going to be in a hurry-up offense. We’ve got a good number of players out so far. It may be whittled down. It may not. We’ve got between 32 and 35 kids out for football right now. That’s a good number for Class 2A.”

Ideally, Roberson would like his players not to play on both sides of the ball.

“We’re trying to get kids in a position and have them own it where they don’t have to play both ways,” he said. “Now there are going to be some kids who are outstanding athletes who will have to play both offense and defense, but at the same time, we want to run the hurry-up offense. We want to get people moving. We’re going to be in condition and just try to out-condition teams at the end of games.”

Roberson said he wants his offense to run as many plays as possible to tire out the other team.

“That’s our goal. … We’ve got the athletes to do it,” he said. “We want to spread people out at every single position, whether it be at running back or wideout for slot. We’ve got guys who can make plays.”

Defensively, Roberson said, the Lions will run a 3-3 defense. A year ago, the Lions ran a 3-2.

“That will give us an extra guy in the box,” he said. “Most teams in our conference, with the exception of Conway Christian, are going to be run-first teams. They are gong to try to pound the ball. That gives us an extra guy in the box to stop the run.

“We want to force teams to the edge, and we want to be able have our closing speed. That’s where I feel like if we can push teams to the edge, to the sidelines, we feel we can have success.”

England will open the season Aug. 20 against the Des Arc Eagles at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

Staff writer Mark Buffalo can be reached at (501) 399-3676 or mbuffalo@arkansasonline.com.

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