That’s many high school football players described the just-concluded season in Southwest Washington.
But even a blessing can come with a price.
That is what some players, like Union’s Liam Mallory and Heritage’s Nikki Scott, have discovered.
Mallory and Scott suffered similar injuries this spring, torn anterior cruciate ligaments and torn meniscus in their knees.
It’s the type of injury that ends seasons, like it did for Mallory and Scott. But typically, it is the type of injury that players can return from the following season.
Except when the following season starts five months after the conclusion of the previous.
And that’s the price of playing football in February and March, instead of the traditional season in the fall.
But Mallory is still hoping to return to the Union football season next fall.
“Five months. That’s the goal,” Mallory said when asked what he projects his recovery time to be from his injury. “I’m going to do everything I can to get back on the field as quickly as I can.”
Mallory suffered his injury on March 5, during the Titans’ second game of this past season. He is slated for surgery this week, but began his rehab a week after his injury.
“I’ve working on keeping the muscle around the knee strong, preparing for the surgery,” the junior said.
Mallory knows the window to return is extremely tight and that every part of his rehab must go perfectly.
“In some way, I was lucky to get hurt so early in the season,” he said. “It makes coming back in the fall possible. But I also know that I don’t want to do anything to risk my future.”
Scott also knows the window for recovery is very tight. That’s because he’s done it before.
Scott tore his ACL and meniscus in his right knee during his freshman season at Heritage. He tore his ACL and meniscus in his left knee to open his junior season on Feb. 26.
“I knew as soon as I planted and felt my knee buckle,” Scott said. “Of course, you always pray and hope it’s not that bad. But really, I knew. When I was lying down on the field, I didn’t really feel the pain as much as I did the frustration.”
Scott is three-sport athlete at Heritage who has never had the opportunity to play his third, and perhaps best, sport – baseball.
His freshman season was wiped out by the first knee injury. His sophomore season was wiped out by the pandemic. Now, he’s lost his junior baseball season.
Scott had his surgery two weeks ago and he’s been told he could get cleared to return to sports in as little as six months.
“But that might just be for a non-contact sport, like baseball,” Scott said. “I’d like to play all three of my sports my senior year (basketball is his other sport), but we’ll just have to see if that’s possible. My focus right now is just on getting better.”
And having gone through the rehab before, Scott believes he’s better prepared to do it a second time.
“Mentally, I feel like I’m in a better place, having gone through it before,” he said. “I know what to expect. And so far, the rehab is going pretty well.”
Mallory said he’s trying to focus on the positive. He said the injury has allowed him to get to know his Union teammates better.
Mallory was an all-state defensive back as a sophomore at Hockinson before transferring to Union last spring.
“I didn’t get those opportunities to get to know my teammates, like spring ball or summer camp,” Mallory said. “And once we started playing this season, I kind of was focused on my job, or just the other 10 guys on the field. But since I got hurt, I’ve really gotten to know and support all my teammates better.”
Injuries are a part of sports. Scott knows that better than anyone.
“I don’t regret playing at all,” he said. “It sucks that I got hurt in our very first game, because we waited so long for the opportunity.
“But I’m just trying to stay positive, be grateful for the time I’ve had playing high school sports and work hard to make my senior year the best it can be.”