LITHIA — Newsome coach Ken Hiscock gathered his team after defeating Riverview 18-6 last week and led the guys in the school fight song. After dismissing them, he turned and watched a slew of players in various stages of pain meander toward the fieldhouse.
And those were just the ones who were able to dress for the particularly physical game against the Sharks.
When asked if he feels like he's running a MASH unit, Hiscock said, "Yeah. That pretty much sums it up."
Injuries are part of football and teams get beat up through the course of the season, but Newsome has been particularly snakebit this year.
Topping the list of injured Wolves are arguably their top two players: running back Conner Powers and linebacker/tight end Joe Worth, both juniors.
Powers, who has rushed for more than 1,000 yards his first two years at Newsome, injured his posterior cruciate ligament Oct. 16 against Leto and is done for the season.
"Any time you lose guys of their caliber, there's a cause for concern," Hiscock said. "But honestly, it was more worrying on the part of the coaches than the players. Our young men have just gone out and played and not put too much emphasis on who has been hurt."
Worth injured his knee the following week against Bloomingdale and may be back for the playoffs. But Hiscock said this week that he doubts that Worth will return this season. Even though Worth may not have been in the game, the team still feels his impact, Hiscock said.
"When Joe speaks, the guys all listen," Hiscock said. "Even though he's been out, he walks up and down the sidelines and barks out calls to the defense."
Powers and Worth aren't the only key Wolves to miss significant time. Running backs Darnell Tucker and Keller Powers missed games with nagging ankle problems. Linebacker Christian Durant, offensive lineman Kyle Weeks and receiver Kaelan Smith are all lost for the season. Defensive back Jarrod Withrow is expected to return tonight after injuring his knee in the second week of play.
Linebacker Paul Zaner, who picked off a pass that led to a touchdown against Riverview, said injuries have been a distraction but he thinks the Wolves can work through them.
"It just means we have to step it up a little more," he said. "Losing those guys is huge, but we have to make up for that by working harder. And I think we've done that."
The Wolves are riding a five-game winning streak heading into tonight's meeting with district rival Durant. At 5-2, Newsome's only losses of the season came from Armwood and Alonso. Newsome heads to the playoffs for the second consecutive season as district champs with a win against the Cougars.
"We had a pretty nasty schedule to start the year," Zaner said. "But we got through those games against tough teams and have been putting it all together lately."
Injuries aside, the Wolves are facing their most important game of the year tonight against visiting Durant. A win against the Cougars will lock up the district title and guarantee a home playoff game when the postseason kicks off Nov. 20. If Newsome loses, there will be a three-way playoff Monday among the Wolves, Raiders and Cougars for the two playoff slots.
And that conjures up some bad memories for the coach.
Newsome finished 7-3 in 2006, but the district title came down to a thee-way tiebreaker against Freedom and Hillsborough. The Wolves wound up on the losing end of that, denying Newsome a school-first playoff berth.
"A tiebreaker is about the last on anybody's mind around here," Hiscock said. "If we go out and take care of business against Durant, that won't come into play. That's our focus."
Brandon Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.