Injury plagued: Col. City football feeling the loss of hobbled players

COLUMBIA CITY — A broken leg, a torn anterior cruciate knee ligament, a broken wrist, a concussion, another broken leg. All this sounds like it should be a list on a doctor’s rounds of the orthopedic wing, but in actuality it is the list of injuries sustained by Columbia City’s football team. The Eagles are coming to grips with a rash of injuries that have hit the team hard. During the past several weeks, the Eagles have lost their leading rusher, their leading receiver and kick returner as well as an All-State defensive back, a solid defender and another starting receiver, a back-up quarterback and another defensive starter.Columbia City’s coaching staff is the last to make excuses. “Most high school football teams are always 2-3 injuries away from a good season turning into a very challenging season,” Hudgins said. “Going into the season we knew that we had very talented players at most positions, but also that there was a drop off in talent between first and second string at certain positions. The bottom line is that we have to have people step up and make plays regardless of who we have lost. The most important thing is always execution and whether the guys we have in there can complete their assignments on each play that determine whether we make first downs and move the ball,” said Hudgins.That being said, there is still a great deal of physical adjustments to be made by those players that are having to step up. Sam Dailey has stepped into the shoes of leading rusher Adam Neely who went down with a broken leg. The measure of what the Eagles lost when Neely was injured is that despite not playing for several games, the Columbia City running back still ranks among the area’s rushing leaders.Another adjustment for the Eagles lies in the area of preparation. An unforeseen area affected by the injuries is that of the scout team. Players that would normally be available to run an opponent’s offense or defense to help give the varsity a good look to practice against are now filling positions on the varsity, leaving the scout team to even younger players who may or may not have the skills necessary to give the varsity a true picture of that week’s opponent.Last week among the hardest hit portions of the Eagle offense was the receiving corps, which was missing All-State player Jared Murphy (broken leg) and starter Justin Bachelder, who missed the game at East Noble with a concussion-type injury.“Missing two of our four receivers definitely caused an impact last week. Teams will change the way they cover us when Murphy is not in the equation, but there are only 4-5 ways people can defend our offense, so we just figure out which method there are using and dial up the plays needed to attack it,” Hudgins noted.With Murphy, the loss was also felt in the Eagle defensive backfield and both absences required a sophomore Dayne Asplund and Seth Kissinger to step up from the Eagle JV and into starting roles on the Columbia City varsity. Both found out that the physical demands of varsity play were very much different from the JV, and with it also came the necessary adjustment on very short notice to playing different positions and with different personnel.“The silver lining is that we have sophomores that are getting varsity playing time,” said Hudgins, “And that will be of benefit to them and us in the future.”Along with the physical strain put on the Eagles or any team that sustains a rash of injuries, is the mental toll taken when a start that the team has come to depend on is no longer available. There is a mental adjustment needed to fill the vacancy on the field when a starter and team leader goes down. Athletes need to find or become the new focus or leader during the time on the field.To the young men’s credit, those injured remain strongly attached to and supportive of their teammates, trying their best to provide the same leadership from the sidelines that they provided on the field.