West Xtra: Injury deals huge blow to OLSH
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In a season where not much has gone right for the football team at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, the Chargers were dealt perhaps their toughest blow of the season to the team's biggest glimmer of hope.
After suffering a broken tibia in the first quarter of OLHS's 35-14 loss to Sto-Rox on Sept. 21, Chargers running back Isiah Neely underwent surgery and will miss the rest of the season.
The news comes after OLHS lost its third consecutive game and fourth of their past five, but the team suffered a far greater loss that goes beyond wins and losses.
"Obviously, he's a heck of a football player, but more importantly, he's a tremendous leader and the heart and soul of our team," OLHS coach Bill Daniels said.
Losing Neely is particularly hard for OLHS because, this season, he established himself as one of the top rushers in Class A, if not the entire WPIAL.
Through the first three games of the 2012 season, Neely rushed for 502 yards on 59 carries (an average of 8.5 yards per carry) and seven touchdowns. Despite only recording stats in three games, he still ranks 23rd among WPIAL rushers in yards and of the 22 players ahead of him on the list, only six gained their yards in fewer carries.
Included in Neely's rushing total was a breakout 310-yard, five-touchdown performance in OLHS's 42-26 win against Western Beaver on Sept. 7, a game in which Neely also surpassed 3,000 career rushing yards.
Last season, Neely emerged as a standout player in Class A, and for OLHS specifically, as he virtually doubled his previous season-high in rushing yards (785) with 1,562 yards on 181 carries and 22 touchdowns. Neely, who began his career at Cornell (which no longer fields a football team), has rushed for at least 350 yards in each of his four WPIAL seasons.
The injury is troubling not only for OLHS, but also Neely in particular, as the senior will now miss the remainder of his last year of high school football. Despite the devastating reality of Neely's injury, Daniels said his running back has maintained a positive attitude throughout.
"That's just the kind of person he is," Daniels said. "His spirits are high and his determination is unrivaled."
It cuts short a stellar WPIAL career, but it also seemingly puts Neely's football future in doubt. Daniels, however, said that there is still interest from colleges recruiting Neely, noting that the schools recognize "the kind of player and person that he is."
He said the doctors said that, after the surgery, Neely's leg will be stronger than it was originally.
For OLHS, a team reliant on the running game with players such as Neely, moving forward without Neely will require some schematic changes that will attempt to fill the profound void left by his absence.
"We're looking forward to maybe being a better-balanced football team and challenging players to step up and perform," Daniels said.
While accomplished, capable passers can sometimes be in short supply in the primarily run-oriented high school game, WPIAL quarterbacks had a banner night last Friday. A season-high 38 quarterbacks threw for 100 yards or more Friday, four of whom threw for more than 300 yards, another season-best.
While no quarterback from the West Xtra region topped 300 passing yards, nine of them threw for at least 100 yards, a group headlined by two passers -- Blackhawk's Chandler Kincade and Sto-Rox's Lenny Williams -- who threw for 200 yards or more. Williams not only threw for 216 yards, but he also rushed for 224, marking the second time this season he has accounted for 400 yards or more of total offense.
An explosive and unexpected performance can come at any time, and for Ellwood City running back Jared Meyers, it came last Friday in his team's 42-28 victory against arch-rival Riverside. In the Wolverines' win (their first of the season), Meyers rushed for 290 yards and five touchdowns, making him the WPIAL's second-leading rusher that night (just behind the 297 yards from Burrell's Cole Bush).
Entering the game, Meyers had just 215 rushing yards in three games and was actually the team's second-leading rusher, trailing teammate Beau Ewing's 258 yards. Additionally, Meyers' five touchdowns in the game more than doubled his two touchdowns from the season's first four games.
First Published October 4, 2012 12:00 am