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Recovered from ACL injury, McDonough hopes to anchor Elizabeth Forward line

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Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For Trib Total Media
Elizabeth Forward's Devin McDonough warms up before practice August 7, 2014, at Elizabeth Forward Stadium.
Top high school sports
By Ed Phillipps
Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014, 12:21 a.m.

It wasn't the injury at the beginning of last season that hurt the most for Elizabeth Forward's Devin McDonough. It was the call that followed.

“I just remember getting a call from my doctor, and he said my ACL was completely torn,” McDonough said. “It was the worst thing I ever heard. I felt like I got shot.”

As he watched the Warriors complete a 6-4 season that included a trip to the playoffs, McDonough, a junior at the time, was happy for his teammates, but acknowledged, “It was really tough,” not being able to suit up.

The 6-foot-1, 297-pound McDonough is ready to do just that, albeit with a pair of knee braces. One is for his surgically-repaired right knee, and the other is for precautionary reasons.

Prior to the injury, McDonough was the Warriors' starting center since his freshman year. He said he feels good and is ready to pick up where he left off.

Much has been made about what the Warriors lost from a season ago, most notably do-it-all quarterback JaQuaun Davidson, who is now at Pitt. But the offensive line EF brings back is plenty to build around.

Left tackle Adam Smith (6-0, 250) also has started since his freshman year. Left guard Daymond Morris (6-0, 238), right guard Anthony Brinson (6-2, 307) and right tackle Cam Stover (6-0, 250) are also experienced players. All of the linemen play defense as well.

“They're pretty big boys,” fourth-year coach Mike LeDonne said. “They have a lot of game experience.”

The chemistry has been obvious since the start of camp.

“The biggest thing with the line is being able to trust the person to your left and to your right to do what they have to do,” McDonough said. “That trust is built completely.”

If there is a silver lining to the graduation of Davidson, it is that the lineman may have an easier time protecting a quarterback who is not as mobile. Brandon Barr and Danny Jacobs are competing to replace Davidson. While both are able to run the Warriors' spread offense, neither will be as unpredictable as the athletic Davidson, who passed and rushed for more than 1,000 yards last year while racking up 28 touchdowns.

“You know what you're going to get (with either Barr or Jacobs),” McDonough said. “If you have somebody that's more mobile, it's more of a freestyle.”

McDonough said his goal is to play college football. He said the lack of a junior-year highlight reel makes him more of an unknown, so he is looking at his senior season as an audition for college coaches.

“I have to come out strong this year and have good games and give them something to look at,” he said.

The pain of last season has left his body, but in his mind, McDonough will harbor an appreciation brought on by the devastating injury.

“Our coaches always say to never waste a play or never waste a drill,” he said. “After my injury, you don't realize how lucky you are to be playing a sport. Every moment could be your last, so you just want to do your best.”

Ed Phillipps is a freelance writer.

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