The state’s longest tenured coach at the same school has never seen a season like this before.
Bob Knox has coached at Stephen Decatur for 31 years, and he’s having a hard time explaining the amount of injuries to key position players this season.
“I’ve never seen it this bad,” Knox said. “I’ve see injuries here and there and you get bit by the injury bug, but this many serious injuries.”
Stephen Decatur started the season off 3-0 and then traveled to Kent Island. The Seahawks couldn’t top one of the premier Bayside North teams, but held the score to 14-3 behind a second-half defensive battle.
But then the injuries started to pile up. The Seahawks certainly didn’t play their best against undefeated North Caroline. Traveling to Kent County ended in a 39-34 loss, and then the Seahawks were down to bare bones in the 38-6 home loss to Queen Anne’s.
By the Queen Anne’s game, leading rusher and play caller Dryden Brous was out with mononucleosis, and Tyree Henry tore his anterior cruciate ligament.
Knox said by the end of the Parkside game, Decatur’s fifth-straight loss, five running backs had been hurt.
Junior Ed Zonnak, who was already injured, was knocked out of the Parkside game along with tight end turned half back, Dequan Andrews, due to injuries.
On top of it all, a recent car crash knocked three more players out for a few games.
At practice Monday, Decatur’s varsity did a walk through, 11 on 11 and only Brous was watching.
Knox said Decatur has about 30 players that can play.
“We’ve never encountered this for the reasons we’re encountering it this year,” Knox said. “I don’t like to make excuses. I stress that to the kids — get the job done whatever hand you’re dealt. We’ve never had the magnitude of injuries to such important (players).”
Of all the injuries, Henry’s might be the most unfair. The 6-foot-4 junior wideout missed last season due to a broken leg and had really given Decatur an added dimension to their power-running game.
Then, on a punt return, another year of sports was wiped away.
“He’s been robbed of two years of athletics in his life and sometimes you never get those back,” Knox said. “It’s been hard.”
While Henry wasn’t at practice Monday, Brous said he has taken it well, wanting to battle back yet again.
The senior, who was such an important player to the team on both sides of the ball, has been helpless the last two games.
Bouncing around the sidelines, Brous said he feels fine from his illness. It’s whether the swelling in his spleen will go down that will allow him to finish out his career against James M. Bennett on Friday, and Snow Hill the following week.
“I was looking forward to it, I’m still looking forward to it,” Brous said. “We just meshed as a team. We weren’t as talented, but we just worked together as a team, got together and just kept rolling with it.
“I’m going to miss football, it’s completely different than any other sport. It’s going to be hard to stop playing.”
As Knox said, he will not make excuses, but each will the coaching staff has been trying to figure out who can play where, instead of developing the gameplan.
Decatur will lose key seniors this season, like Brous and lineman Ernest Shockley along with others, but the Seahawks return players like Zonnak, Henry and quarterback Darion McKenzie, who has been a playmaker this season.
As a coach, Knox is always trying to teach the team that this is just what happens sometimes.
It’s up to them to make the best of it. Play the game of football because they love it, not because they want to win, he said.
“No matter how bad it looks, you never quit,” Knox said. “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings. The fat lady hasn’t sung yet. They got two more games till the fat lady sings.”
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