SPOTLIGHT: Handling an early end to making memories under the Friday night lights

A LOST YEAR: A few minutes after this carry, the senior season ended for Loyola’s Brooks Rodgers. (Photo by KEVIN PICKENS, Journal Sports)


There are no guarantees while you are playing high school football, but there’s no doubt that the build-up to a senior season is something special. Anticipating, then finally enjoying the lights coming on. The crowd cheering. Really, it’s just that feeling of being on the field after all of the hard work that’s been put in.

So just think about what it must feel like to have it all taken away in an instant.

Injuries can happen at any time – some might not even be during a game – but when they do, it can be tough to deal with.

There are few things in high school football tougher to see than a young man watching from the sideline as his teammates play, knowing that he would be out there were it not for a fateful moment.

Loyola’s Brooks Rodgers didn’t play his junior year, but dedicated himself to coming back for his senior season. Didn’t miss a day of summer workouts. Looked great in the scrimmage and jamboree as a starting wide receiver.

In the second quarter of the opening game against Captain Shreve, he got a carry on a jet sweep. Eight plays later, he caught a pass for 10 yards and a first down.

On that play, Rodgers felt something pop in his leg as he was being tackled. He limped off the field. He will never play another down of football.

Done. Just like that.

“It’s tough at first,” Rodgers says. “It’s really hard on game day. You work the whole summer and then get hurt five minutes into the first game …”

After watching his teammates play for the last six weeks, Brooks Rodgers is having surgery today for a torn ACL.

His teammate and fellow receiver John Carmody was injured on a play that had little chance of success – a semi-Hail Mary on the last play of the half against Green Oaks. As the ball was falling incomplete — “I should have caught it,” he said — his legs got tangled with the defender.

Carmody, the team’s leading receiver, came up limping with an ankle injury and didn’t play in the second half. He sat out last week’s game against D’Arbonne Woods. He’s not officially done for the rest of his senior year, but the odds are not good.

Done. Just like that.

“It’s really annoying,” Carmody says.

And then there is the case of Captain Shreve receiver Cam Randolph, who is missing his entire senior year; not because of an on-field injury, but due to a car accident during the summer.

Done. Just like that.

“To have that happen to a kid like Cam is really tough,” Shreve head coach Adam Kirby said. “He’s worked so hard and is such a great kid that you really feel for him. Sometimes when that happens to a player, it’s hard to keep them motivated. Not Cam. He’s right there with us all the time.”

Loyola’s Mike Greene has seen this too many times during his 26-year career as a coach at four schools. “You just hate it for the kids,” he says. “They’ve waited all this time for their senior year … it breaks your heart.”

There are the “fortunate” ones, such as Benton senior offensive lineman Justin Little, who was hurt in the second week of the season and actually played with a broken fibula before being sidelined. Little got a 4-to-6 week recovery estimate and was able to make it back last week, so the injury did not cost him his senior year.

“It was discouraging to have to sit during your senior year,” Little says. “The first week was pretty rough. I’m just grateful I was able to come back.”

How can it be worse? Consider the case of Haughton’s Brayden Stovall. Though only a junior, he got hurt trying to block an extra point against Byrd two weeks ago. “I heard a pop,” Stovall says. “I knew that I was done. You feel sick to your stomach.”

It’s a torn ACL and he will miss the remainder of this football season AND baseball season. This, in addition to missing most of his sophomore baseball season with an arm injury. When his senior year comes around, he would be considered as a risk for another knee injury, which could potentially cost him another baseball season.

“That’s all I think about,” Stovall says. “I lose sleep over it.”

(It’s also worth noting that Carmody’s injury may cost him the upcoming basketball season at Loyola, where he was the leading scorer last year.)

Stovall says he will have a decision to make when the time comes, but he could very well have played his last football game, even though he still has a senior year ahead.

Done. Just like that. 

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