Cobras quarterback Robby Mahler knew something was wrong as soon as he landed on the Hudson gym floor Thursday morning and heard the pop. That night, as he lay in bed, he hoped that at the very worst he had suffered an ankle sprain.
A trip to the doctor confirmed the worst: Mahler, a junior, had broken the growth plate in his left ankle.
While Hudson endured one of the worst losses in Pasco County high school football history, a 72-0 rout against host Zephyrhills, Mahler stood on the sideline on crutches, shouting encouragement to his teammates.
Mahler said he hoped to have the cast off in three weeks, and after a few days of rehab, even be back by the Oct. 6 game against Blake, a Class 3A, District 6 contest at Cobra Stadium.
"I'd like to be back by Wesley Chapel," he said, referring to Hudson's next game. "But I know that isn't going to happen."
The injury occurred during his third-period gym class while he was playing volleyball. He jumped at the net to block a spike, and somehow when he landed, the ball was under him. He tumbled to the floor.
"(Hudson volleyball coach Linda) McQuade told me she had only seen that type of injury happen once before," Mahler said.
The Cobras lost another standout Friday night. Fullback Steve Gordon, the team's leading rusher, was sidelined for the second half with a sprained left ankle. Coach Terry Voyles said Gordon was hobbled before the game after spraining both ankles.
Mahler's injury, though, was perhaps the most devastating injury for a team that was already headed into Friday night's game without two top players: Linebacker Robb Philippus, a state championship wrestler out with a pinched nerve; and wideout Daniel Barton, out with a hairline fracture in his left arm.
_ JAMAL THALJI