High school coaches dealing with injuries

Paul Schofield
| Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, 10:15 p.m.

The one thing a high school football coach hates to see is when a player goes down with an injury, especially a major one.

It hurts even more when the injury ends a season, or evenb costs an athlete part of it.

A lot of coaches around the district have seen some of their top players exit unexpectedly this year.

Washington superstar running back Shai McKenzie may be the biggest name to see his season end, but there are others. McKenzie injured his knee making a simple cut in Week 3 at Charleroi.

Yough played against Mt. Pleasant without nose tackle Tom Sever (leg) on Friday and probably lost starting tackle Chandler Daniel for the season with a leg injury. Daniel left the turf at Cougar Mountain on a stretcher and was transported to a hospital by ambulance.

“Not having Tom was a big loss,” Yough coach Mark Crovak said. “He's a leader and makes a difference on defense. He plugs up everything in the middle. We're hoping to get him back in a couple of weeks. Chandler, however, might be done.”

Crovak said losing Sever and Daniel impacts his team's depth.

“They were two-way starters for us,” Crovak said. “When you're a Class AA squad with limited talent, losing kids like that hurts. You get the next player up and try to coach them the best you can.”

The one player Greensburg Central Catholic couldn't afford to lose this season was starting quarterback Chase Keller. But the senior was gone for the season when he injured his left shoulder in Week 2 intercepting a pass.

His injury forced the Centurions coaching staff to change their offense.

Greensburg Salem saw senior linebacker/tight end Kenny Clark's season end in Week 1 with a knee injury. Greensburg Salem coach Dave Keefer said the loss was felt more in Week 2 because of Clark's leadership.

“What an injury does can affect your depth, especially if you don't have a deep roster,” Latrobe coach Ray Reitz said. “A lot of times the backup is OK, but now his backup is inexperienced because they are sophomores.”

Latrobe lost two-way tackle Josh Nunez to a knee injury on the second play of the game Week 1 against Gateway. Reitz is hopeful Nunez can return before the end of the season so college scouts can see him on film.

“Josh was a leader and a tough kid,” Reitz said. “A lot of times an injury affects three phases of the game: offense, defense and special teams.”

Latrobe then lost starting linebacker Alex Hoopes, a junior, during Week 2 against Hempfield. Hoopes was one of the Wildcats' top defensive players.

Belle Vernon coach Aaron Krepps probably thinks his program is jinxed. The Leopards lost junior running back Anthony Levis to a knee injury in a scrimmage, and then starting quarterback Travis Snyder a three-year starter as a junior, was lost for the season with a knee injury in Week 3 against Ringgold.

“It's tough,” Krepps said. “I know every situation is different. The dynamics of the team has changed. The offense we envisioned is now a lot different.

“I know injuries are part of the game, but we lost our second- and third-string quarterbacks in Week 3, too. Now we're starting freshman Michael Fine. I thought he played well for us against Elizabeth Forward.”

Krepps said he and his staff have been forced to make player moves out of necessity.

“You never want to see a player get hurt,” Krepps said. “But injuries give other players opportunities.”

Reitz agrees.

“If you're able to overcome the injuries, there are benefits,” Reitz said.

Franklin Regional coach Greg Botta said injuries are forcing him to start three, sometimes four, sophomores.

Botta is dealing with the season-ending loss of all-conference tackle Adam Mihoci, who injured his knee in Week 2 and played on it in Week 3 before telling his coach the knee was sore. Mihoci is getting recruited by some Division I programs.

“We thought it was a sprain or strain,” Botta said. “When he came to us before the Greensburg Salem game in Week 4 and told us, it made me and the staff sick.

“It shows how tough the kid was by playing on it. I asked the team how they were about all the injuries and they told us they try not to think about it.”

Botta hopes how Mihoci played in the first two weeks is enough to convince college coaches what type of talent he is.

Linebacker Pat Kukalis also is missing from the Franklin Regional lineup.

“In 2005, 2007 and 2011, we were pretty lucky,” Botta said. “We didn't have that many injuries those seasons. You just have to approach it as the next man up.”

Some injuries don't even happen on the football field. Blairsville quarterback Scott Thompson injured his knee turning around in the classroom.

As many coaches said, injuries unfortunately are just part of the game.

Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at pschofield@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.

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