It was back out to Robert Lee for me for Week 5 of the high school football season as the Steers of Robert Lee played Garden City High School in six-man action. This was going to be a great game. Both teams were coming into the game with just one loss, both to state-ranked teams, so there was going to be a battle on both sides of the ball with both teams touting play-makers, Juan Bustos and Ismael Ramirez for Garden City and Will Howard and Tristen Hildebrand for Robert Lee.
If you've never seen a six-man game, you need to. It's super fast paced and every time you look to the field someone is scoring. That's exactly how the game started. Robert Lee received the ball on the opening kickoff but was held to a three-and-out turning the ball over on downs. On the very first play from scrimmage for Garden City, junior running back Ismael Ramirez ran the ball 55 yards for the first score of the game and Garden City was up 8-0. The rest of the first half was a trade-off in points, but the game started to take a turn for the worse for Robert Lee when star quarterback Will Howard suffered a mild ankle injury. Howard sat out for a few plays while trainers stretch his injury and re-wrapped his foot before heading back into the game.
With just a few minutes left in the second quarter, Robert Lee found themselves deep in their own territory and Will Howard was forced to scramble up the field on a first down play toward the sideline. Trying to avoid a tackle, Howard came down awkwardly on his already injured ankle and immediately collapsed in front of the Garden City coaches. Right as the play finished the Garden City coaches started calling for the Robert Lee trainers and coaches to tend to their fallen player. Here is a quote from Robert Lee head coach Shay Avants from the game story written by freelance writer Paul Anthony concerning the injury:
"It was nasty," Avants said of an injury that changed the course of the game and may yet define the Steers' season. "I knew it wasn't going to be good when I got over there... I wasn't thinking football or (of) the season. I was thinking about how much I love that kid and how hard he's worked to get where he is."
The game was put on hold for several minutes while trainers examined Howard before finally bring a cart over so he could be taken over to the ambulance. You could tell he was in excruciating pain and he was trying his hardest not to let his team know how bad it was. Perhaps being an indication that the injury to his ankle wasn't as bad as it initially seemed, Howard never left the field until the end of the game. But he was going to have to have his ankle X-rayed the following day to see the full extent of the damage.
At the half Robert Lee was only down 24-20, but without their best player on the field and seeing him carted away, the Steers weren't able to get their game back. I had to leave at the half to head back to the office for some editing duties so as I drove home I tuned the radio to coverage of the game. I ended up changing the station halfway through the third quarter because I couldn't listen to any more. Garden City went on a tear scoring 42 unanswered points and ending the game by mercy rule 66-20. It was a tough night for Robert Lee and I can only hope that Howard's injury doesn't affect him or the rest of the team for the remaining game in the season.