Injuries have started to accumulate heading into Week 8 of the high school football season for some schools, while others have avoided the dreaded injury bug.
Pinecrest Academy has been decimated by injuries since the beginning of fall practice, losing numerous players, including its starting quarterback in Week 2. Lambert coach Sid Maxwell said he has "a few players banged up" whereas South Forsyth has benefited from one of the healthiest seasons coach Jeff Arnette remembers. West Forsyth has remained injury-free for the most part and Central has had an "average" season of injuries. North Forsyth coach Jason Galt reminds his players to play like it’s their last game and not dwell on the negatives.
Although most injuries are demoralizing for teams, Pinecrest coach Todd Winter has tried to turn it into something his team can build upon by giving younger players a chance to step up.
"I think it’s been a positive," Winter said. "Ryan [McCarthy] started the last five ballgames and he has been 4-1. So, it has been a positive, but he’s still a freshman, but it’s been a positive in that regard."
One of the most difficult challenges of being a small Class 1A program is depth. When a player goes down, the team usually loses a two-way starter.
"We’ve been banged up all year long," Winter said. "We have yet to have the entire team back in full strength this season. …When you lose one guy, you’re losing two starters."
Lambert has had its share of injuries, but has tried to prevent them by not tackling players to the ground during practice.
"We’re like everybody else," Maxwell said. "We’ve got a few kids trying to make their way back and fight through it. …We don’t have a whole lot of contact in practice, as far as tackling to the ground. I try to minimize the collisions, so to speak. Knock on wood, but I don’t think I’ve had any injuries in practice in more so during games."
Central coach Shane Williamson said the way injuries are handled now has evolved over the past decade. The Bulldogs junior DL/OL Clint Fenton injured his shoulder during practice following the Dawson County game, but Williamson praised the training staff for being prepared.
"That has changed a lot over the last 10 years," he said. "When I first got into it, you didn’t have a trainer or rehab center. Down South, the coach was the person who determined if you could play. Now, you’ve got athletic trainers on every program at any level. It is a great thing."
West athletic trainer Richard Good is in his second year with the program after working at the University of Georgia for three years. He noted that players are less likely to be injured if they don’t have a good offseason program.
"The most important thing is to be there for the coach as kind of a communication between players and coaches with how players are feeling," Good said. "Obviously, we have an injury report every week we go over as a coaching staff. For the players, I’ve gotten very close to all our players. Building trust with them from getting a Band-Aid to a season-ending type of injury, and they trust whatever I say."
The War Eagles have avoided injuries and hope to continue their good luck. Not having too many injuries has allowed South to have better chemistry on the field.
"We’ve been pretty fortunate this year," Arnette said. "We had an injury on the first day of camp…and hopefully that will continue. We’ve had a few guys play banged up, but we’ve been very fortunate. I think the bye week was really big for us. …That week made a big difference for us getting kids back and ready to play."
North had its biggest injury of the season last week when quarterback Harris Roberts went down with a broken collarbone. Roberts, a senior, underwent surgery and will miss the remainder of the season.
"As a coach you think about your team and what you lost, but for me more importantly it’s the type of kid and his family. You really feel bad for the young man. …It’s one of those things that happen in football sometimes."