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A Sacramento Bee article about Woodcreek injuries

Posted Sunday, October 17, 2010 by The Sacramento Bee

MANNY CRISOSTOMO / mcrisostomo@sacbee.com


Preps Plus: Injuries particularly harsh this football season

Published: Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Saturday, Oct. 16, 2010 - 1:30 pm

Jason Stewart doesn't look forward to Friday nights.

The Woodcreek High School senior is a talented football player. But the linebacker also is injured, out for the season since the first day of practice because of an ACL tear in his left knee.

So on Fridays he can be a pretty miserable guy.

"When we played our season opener against Lincoln (Aug. 27), it was the worst day of my life," Stewart said. "Every Friday night is pretty much the worst night of the week for me."

Stewart isn't alone.

Three senior starters – wide receivers Devon Murphy and Derrick Kimball and offensive lineman Mark Smith – stand beside Stewart in collective misery Friday nights. They also are sidelined by injuries.

"Fridays are horrible," Smith said. "I get that passion building up all week, then I realize I can't go out any more and pour my heart into it."

While injuries come with the territory in a collision sport such as football, many area programs are feeling the pain these days.

While coaches still see injuries as cyclical, there is growing concern that as players get stronger through year-round training, the potential for more serious injuries is magnified.

It's also a reason the California Interscholastic Federation tightened its concussion standards this season.

"It's unbelievable how much bigger and faster kids are than when I played, which isn't all that long ago," said Woodcreek coach John Hildebrand. "We're kind of seeing that in some of the internal injuries we have had."

Knee injuries such as Stewart's are common in football; the injuries of his teammates are not. Smith suffered a broken back, Murphy a lacerated kidney and Kimball a fractured rib and punctured lung.

Smith and Murphy spent the weekend together in the same Roseville hospital after both were injured in the season opener.

"At first, I thought I got a little jacked up," Smith said after a Lincoln defender's knee landed on his back after he made a block.

"I figured I'd be back in a couple of weeks. Then they told me I had broken four bones in my back, and that I was done for the season. I was devastated, in tears."

Murphy remembers being tackled and landing hard on his back.

"But I popped right up and went back to the huddle," Murphy said.

"At halftime, it felt like I had a cramp in my side. But when I got in the car to go home after the game, it was killing me."

Murphy learned he had internal bleeding. He spent three days in the hospital, including his 18th birthday. Smith was there for five days.

For Smith and Kimball, the injuries were particularly tough. Not only is it their senior seasons, both missed considerable time because of injuries as juniors.

Smith had knee surgery midway through the 2009 season after tearing a meniscus against Rocklin. Kimball played in five games but missed the others because of a sprained left ankle and a broken right hand.

Stewart entered the season as arguably the Timberwolves' best returning player and, according to Hildebrand, a strong candidate to be Sierra Foothill League Defensive Player of the Year.

But the 6-foot-1, 212- pounder injured his knee on the second play at a team summer camp, then, despite intense conditioning and wearing a protective brace, he re-injured it the first day of practice in August.

All continue to come to practice and work as student coaches for Hildebrand. Kimball and Murphy expect to be healthy for basketball – Woodcreek is the defending Sac-Joaquin Section Division II champion – and Smith plans to play baseball in the spring.

Stewart is the only one of the four determined to play football in college.

"Overcoming this has been one of the greatest challenges of my life," said Stewart, who dreams of walking on at Stanford.

"You kind of define yourself as a football player. Now that this has happened, I've had to re-define myself. It's not something you figure you'll have to do in high school."

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