Same game, different goals

Published 9:36 pm Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Injuries, of course, play a role in any football squad’s long season.

As impressive and surprising as Lakeland’s four straight victories to start this season have been — except, perhaps, to Coach Glenwood Ferebee and his players — even the Cavaliers haven’t been immune to the bad luck of injuries.

Injuries as minor as the countless twists, bruises and painful cramps that most players experience at some time or other go hand in hand with 10 football games in 10 weeks. If a coach and his team aren’t so lucky, those injuries can be much worse.

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The Cavaliers weren’t dominating or pretty in beating Western Branch Monday evening and getting to 4-0, but it certainly was a team victory. And with Raekwon Johnson, normally Lakeland’s standout running back, having to move over a step to fill in for injured quarterback Zach Super, it made a difference all over the field for the Cavaliers.

Antonio Perry became the first-string running back. Johnson, normally a linebacker as well, didn’t play on the defensive side. That meant more playing time and more pressure for a host of Cavalier players — Orel Drummond, Deontae Tillery, Jerrell Ralph, Cornelius Revell, Jordan Stokley and Perry.

Those guys were all getting plenty of snaps before Monday’s game, but each had to step in and contribute a little more. I’m sure other players and spots on the field were affected, too, but that’s the extent of what I noticed from the sideline with my layman’s eye.

High school football isn’t about everybody playing and everybody getting a trophy, nor should it be. But Lakeland has only 35 players on its roster. In Group AAA, Southeastern District competition, the reality is that all 35 players will play at an important time during the season, whether a coach wants to be politically correct about everyone’s playing time or not.

At the other end of the scale, the Suffolk Piranhas and their debut games, on the other hand, were the ideal example for every kid playing. Win or lose, for these 9- to 12-year-olds, gaining experience simply by competing was the main idea. Never mind the result, at least for now.

Again though, everyone played more out of necessity than because of a concern for anyone’s feelings. The Piranhas’ coaches outnumbered their reserves on the sideline.

For the Piranhas, playing organized football for the first time, the chance to get out on the field — even a roughly-mown, rain-soaked, barely-lined field — was enough for a completely successful day. That and keeping the injuries to a few cuts, scrapes and bruises.