The Woodlands closes in on Texas football title, inspired by teammate left behind in hospital

The Woodlands closes in on Texas football title, inspired by teammate left behind in hospital

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The Woodlands closes in on Texas football title, inspired by teammate left behind in hospital

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In this Nov. 26, 2016, photo, The Woodlands linebacker Grant Milton (21) is shown during a Class 6A Division I regional semifinal game in Waco, Texas. School officials say Milton is in intensive care after suffering an injury during a playoff game. Conroe Independent School District spokeswoman Sarah Blakelock said in a statement Monday that Grant Milton was injured during the regional football playoff game Saturday. (Jason Fochtman/Houston Chronicle via AP) ORG XMIT: TXHOU203

In this Nov. 26, 2016, photo, The Woodlands linebacker Grant Milton (21) is shown during a Class 6A Division I regional semifinal game in Waco, Texas. (Photo: Jason Fochtman/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Contrary to at least one prevalent pop culture “theory,” a team never gets better by losing a talented player. Yet, sometimes they do reach better results, driven by thoughts of their lost comrade and a goal of honoring their accomplishments. One Texas school finds itself on the precipice of just such an accomplishment, all with one of their linebackers back in a hospital recovering from a mysterious injury suffered during a playoff game.

The Woodlands has advanced through the Texas Class 6A Division I playoffs after watching linebacker Grant Milton fall injured with a horrific and mysterious brain injury during a non-contact incident in a playoff game against Austin Bowie. He was rushed into emergency brain surgery. He remained comatose in a Waco hospital until Dec. 13, when he was finally transferred to a medical facility in The Woodlands.

The team has played on in his memory, and won in his memory. First, The Woodlands topped Round Rock to reach the Class 6A semifinals. There they beat Super 25-ranked Texas superpower Allen, advancing to a state title matchup with another traditional state power, Austin Lake Travis.

Throughout it all, Highlanders players and fans have rallied together in support of Milton. The team has brought Milton’s jersey to each game and kept it on the end of the sideline. Fans throughout the stands have worn shirts with Milton’s No. 21. Even state semifinal opponent Allen presented The Woodlands with a check in support of Milton’s escalating medical expenses, following on a $10,000 donation from Texans star J.J. Watt.

Now, with one game remaining, The Woodlands are within a single win of a perfect, championship season … and a memory that would honor Milton, which they’d be excited to tell him all about once his recovery reaches a later stage.

“I must admit it’s humbling to be part of this experience; something that seems to bind us all together, to care for Grant and one another, something that brings out the best in each of us,” Miles Milton, Grant Milton’s father, wrote on an online journal.

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