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Lineman makes early return

| Friday, Oct. 6, 2006

If Karns City's Josh Williams had followed his doctor's original instructions, then the Gremlins' game at Clarion tonight would have marked his return to the field.

Instead, tonight will be Williams' third game back, and he said his left knee, which had the meniscus removed and the MCL repaired Aug. 17, is "pretty close to 100 percent."

Williams, an offensive and defensive lineman, began practicing again two weeks ahead of schedule Sept. 22. After rehabilitating his knee with Karns City athletic trainer John Burnett, the Gremlins' senior received the green light from doctors.

"I went back to the doctors, and I had a big cyst that had filled up on the back of my knee," Williams said. "They drained it, and that day I started practicing. The cyst was the size of a tennis ball."

Even though Williams was "pretty out of shape," the sophomores who have been playing significant roles on the Gremlins' offensive line could not block him during his first practice back.

"We put him on scout team defense, and the sophomores were surprised," Karns City coach Ed Conto said. "That's what good technique and experience will do."

Karns City (5-0, 3-0) has been rotating several sophomores on the offensive line all season. Williams has been giving them advice during his inactivity. But, he said he couldn't wait to show them what he was made of.

"I was pretty anxious to get in there and knock them around," Williams said.

Williams brings stability and experience to the Gremlins' offensive line at guard.

"He's a good solid senior leader," Conto said. "He has a good presence, and he's a good all-around player."

Williams' first game back was Sept. 22 at Keystone. Conto said that the plan was to rotate Williams into the game every other offensive series. However, once Williams started playing, he didn't want to come out, and he ended up sitting just two series the whole game.

Last week marked the first time Williams got to play at home in Karns City this season, and it was against KSAC rival Redbank Valley.

"A lot of people told me it wasn't worth it to come back and play," Williams said. "I exercised two to three times a day. ... That first game back, all the fans in the stands made me realize how much it was worth it."

Williams had surgery to repair the meniscus in his right knee in the summer of 2005, and in February, doctors performed a thoractomy on him, going through his back and splitting his ribs open to fix a heart anomaly.

He said he is concerned about getting injured again.

"You can't say you're not," Williams said.

Conto is nervous, too, but he hopes that Williams stays healthy and "has success and has fun."

Williams said that throughout his rehab, his teammates were behind him the whole time.

"They helped me through it, and they supported me," Williams said. "They nominated me as one of the captains for my first game back, and my quarterback (Matt Endlish) said he'd get me to the playoffs."

Karns City takes another step toward the postseason at 7 p.m. tonight at Clarion.

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