Bartlett quarterback and kicker Steve Hrbacek refused to miss the remainder of his senior season due to a broken collarbone.
A 17-year old Bartlett resident, Hrbacek suffered the injury on Bartlett's fourth play from scrimmage in the season opener against Wheaton North. A plate was installed to strengthen the healing clavicle, which the Hrbaceks were told by their doctor would take eight weeks to heal fully, Steve said Wednesday.
Yet, Hrbacek opted to return in a limited capacity as the Hawks' kicker four weeks later against Waubonsie Valley. He has since kicked 3 extra points and missed a 33-yard field goal attempt in 2 games.
"They pretty much left it up to me and what I wanted to do," Hrbacek said. "The doctor said I have a fresh start with the plate in, so I have just as good a chance of getting hurt as before it happened."
To minimize the risk of contact prior to reaching the eight-week threshold, Hrbacek has not resumed all kicking duties. Senior Kevin Kirchhoff handles kickoffs, and senior Justin Clement punts, two roles Hrbacek would normally fill if playing at full strength.
"We'd love to have him punt and kick off, too, but that's too risky," Bartlett coach Tom Meaney said. "(Assistant) coach (Mark) Williams talked to his dad extensively and told him there was a chance he might get hit. He said they were willing to take that chance because Steve put so much time into football and he wants to play so badly. He wants to be a part of it. He comes out every day and does his kicking routine. His strength is kicking."
Hrbacek said he intends to do more than kick soon. Cleared by his doctor last week to begin throwing, he is preparing to resume his role as signal caller for the Hawks in the near future.
"I can play quarterback again," Hrbacek said. "The plate is not an issue at all. It's just a matter of getting my muscles back to where they were before. I'm hoping I can get back by the South Elgin game (Oct. 12), but I think I'll for sure be back playing by playoff time."
The Hawks are 4-2 with games remaining at Larkin (2-4), against South Elgin (3-3) and at Neuqua Valley (6-0).
Wear those colors proudly: Two Elgin Area School District U-46 football teams this weekend will honor the cancer battles fought by loved ones by promoting awareness.
The color of the day on Saturday at South Elgin will be yellow, in honor of the memory of 2008 graduate Matt Wright. He succumbed to complications from testicular cancer on Oct. 5, 2009. Fans attending the afternoon game against Lake Park are encouraged to wear yellow, the color associated with testicular cancer awareness.
Wright's youngest brother, Tyler Salemi, is a senior on the Storm varsity football team, which will accessorize with yellow tape in a show of support.
"It's keeping (Matt's) memory alive and keeping it fresh in the kids' minds about an important health issue," South Elgin coach Dale Schabert said.
The day will hold special meaning for Scott and Michelle Wright, who continue to foster Matt's wish to educate all men, particularly young men, about getting examined or performing a self examination in order to detect testicular cancer in its earliest, most treatable stages.
"I promised Matt that I would pass on the knowledge to young men to get checked for testicular cancer or self check," Michelle Wright said this week. "I'm hoping to pass the word to check themselves so it can save a life, and they would not have to to go through the horrible fight Matt went through."
Men can learn how to properly perform a self examination by visiting the American Cancer Society website.
With the similar goal of raising awareness, the Larkin Royals will take the field against Bartlett at Memorial Field Friday night with teal ribbons adorning their helmets. Teal is the color associated with cervical cancer awareness.
The Royals will wear the ribbons in support of the mother of senior David Duda, who underwent treatment for the disease.
One-two punch: Huntley's backfield is finally at full strength as the Red Raiders (4-2, 4-0) prepare to face Cary-Grove (6-0, 3-0) in Saturday's showdown for first place in the Valley Division of the Fox Valley Conference.
Huntley running back Ethan Connor (6-0, 195) proved last week he has fully healed from sprains to both ankles. The senior returned two weeks ago against Dundee-Crown but rushed only 4 times for 25 yards.
It was a different story in last Friday's 34-33 victory at Jacobs. Connor rushed 15 times for 75 tough yards and a touchdown, highlighted by 7 carries for 30 yards during a 9-play, fourth-quarter drive that culminated in quarterback Kam Sallee's 17-yard scoring run, which gave Huntley a 34-20 lead with 2:07 left in the game.
"We just wanted to pound and run the clock down," Connor said afterward. " We were going to run the exact same play every time because that zone play was working perfectly. They couldn't stop it."
Connor and junior Jake Scalise (5-4, 155), who has taken the bulk of the carries in his teammate's absence, give the Red Raiders two viable rushing options behind Sallee heading into their biggest test of the season at Cary-Grove, which is ranked No. 6 in Class 7A.
"He's a great vertical runner," Huntley coach John Hart said of Connor, "and Jake's a great cutback runner and has really elevated his game. Having the two of them together allows us to run with the football, which is the best thing to do in October."
Approaching record-breaking territory: Tailback Aaron Everson is making a run at Bartlett's all-time rushing record.
A workhorse for the Hawks, the 6-foot, 196-pound senior ran for 253 yards and 3 touchdowns in a 21-13 victory over Lake Park last Saturday. It was the fourth time this season Everson has rushed for 230 yards or more in a game, improving his season totals to 1,211 yards and 19 touchdowns on 157 carries (7.7 avg.).
"I guess all my hard work over the summer is paying off," Everson said after the Lake Park victory.
With 3 regular-season games remaining, Everson is closing in on two of Bartlett's all-time greats, each a former honorary captain of the Daily Herald all-area team. Averill Sutchar rushed for 1,499 yards and 22 touchdowns in 11 games in 2004. Kent Martin is the single-season record holder. In 2004, he rushed for 1,634 yards and 23 touchdowns in 11 games.
There was never any question about Everson's speed. He qualified for the state track meet last spring in the 100-meter dash (11.18 seconds) and the 200-meter dash (22.53).
What was unknown was how he would develop in the role of featured back after splitting carries as a junior. Everson, who rushed for 291 yards and 7 touchdowns on 44 carries last season, worked in the weight room to enhance his size and power game.
"He's strong and he's a hard worker," Bartlett coach Tom Meaney said. "Usually your running back is 175 pounds or so, maybe 180. I asked him the other day how much he weighs and he said he lost a couple of pounds and he's at 196. That extra 20 pounds helps. Aaron's a good one."
Everson and the Hawks will face a Larkin defense Friday that allows an average of 214 rushing yards per game.