Long road back from injury

 

Manistee middle linebacker Spencer McDougall (33) makes a tackle against Ludington in his first game back after a knee injury ended his 2014 season. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

Manistee middle linebacker Spencer McDougall (33) makes a tackle against Ludington in his first game back after a knee injury ended his 2014 season. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — With four years or less available to play high school football, every down matters.

A player could lose 25 percent of his high school career with one injury, while losing a leader can cause irreparable damage to a team’s entire season.

That’s exactly what happened to Manistee last season when middle linebacker Spencer McDougall went down with a torn knee ligament in the fourth game of the season against Pinconning, and the team subsequently spiraled.

The Chippewas started the season 3-1, but without McDougall they would go 2-3 for the remainder of the season and miss the playoffs.

“Throughout the season things changed. Going to practice felt a little different, it felt a little less intense after that,” McDougall said.

Without the middle of the defense playing the team would allow over 40 points in each of their three losses, which not only devastated McDougall but also head coach Tod Miller.

“I think I was the one who was the most deflated about it because he was my positional player,” Miller said. “There’s a real gap when you lose your best defensive linebacker.”

McDougall was forced to cheer for his teammates from the sidelines, which wasn’t easy on him.

“It was terrible standing on the sidelines and not being able to play. I couldn’t do anything about losing games. The winning was still great, but it feels like you’re not part of it,” McDougall said.

The deflating feeling wasn’t something that either coach or player wanted to feel again and 9 months later he was practicing and training at almost 100 percent.

McDougall said his rehabilitation team did a great job, and even though he’s not quite at 100 percent, he jumped right back into practice right away without much problem.

“There was no hesitation, and it was a great feeling,” McDougall said. “Sometimes when we’re at defensive practice and we do some sharp cutting and stuff like that I’ll get a sharp pain there. I’ll just have to ice it after and I’ll be okay.”

Both coach and player think they’ve improved on the year before and have lofty expectations for the unbeaten Chippewas.

“It was a disappointing thing. I think we’re better prepared for the ‘next man up’ this year if something happens to any of our players,” Miller said. “One of our better defensive players and team leaders was hurt last year and it’s always going to hurt when you lose someone like that.”

Miller may be thankful for his team’s depth this season, McDougall would attribute the high expectations and hot start to the team’s collective attitude.

“This year we have a lot more chemistry together. We are all good friends and do a bunch of stuff together, and it shows,” McDougall said. “We think we are a better team now than at the end of last year. The coaches have said it and we think so. Last year we only had five seniors and this year we have a lot more.”

The Chippewas are 2-0 so far this season and look to carry their momentum into their upcoming home game against Muskegon Heights on Friday, Sept. 11.

McDougall has 32 tackles from his linebacker position through two games.

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Posted by Brian Fogg

Brian is the sports writer for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach him at (231) 398-3110 or bfogg@pioneergroup.com.

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