Playing through pain
FCT Sports Editor
I'm not a superstitious person, but the quarterbacks in Franklin County have experienced more than their share of bad luck this season.
Earlier this season, Russellville coach Doug Goodwin told me that quarterback is the toughest position to play. His starting quarterback, senior Cory Trapp, has started every game this season for the No. 8 Golden Tigers, but he has played the latter part of the season with a neck stinger, which causes him to sit out a play or two if he receives a good pop.
How hard is it to play quarterback? Just ask all four county quarterbacks, because everyone one of them was knocked out of at least one game this season.
It all started with Vina sophomore quarterback Brent Townsend, who suffered a severe rib injury in Week 4 against Phillips and couldn't play again until Week 8. Tharptown junior QB Tyler Cagle and Phil Campbell senior signal-caller Jonathan Dill also experienced game-ending injuries, although at least those didn't happen until the final week of the regular season.
According to American writer Harry Golden, the only thing that overcomes hard luck is hard work.
Red Bay senior quarterback Anthony Horton knows what this means better than anyone after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament for the third time in two years last Friday.
In the closing minutes of Red Bay's 45-14 playoff win over Pleasant Valley, Horton twisted free from heavy pressure on fourth-and-8 and scooted free for a 25-yard gain and a first down. But Horton, who threw two touchdown passes and also scored on a 3-yard keeper in the fourth quarter, tore the ACL in his right knee on that play, and he will miss the remainder of the playoffs, along with his final season of basketball and tennis.
Horton's toughness is evident after he managed to come back and play after his first two ACL injuries. Prior to his junior season, Horton tore the ACL in his left knee during a summer pick-up basketball game. After rehabbing hard, Horton came back to play in Red Bay's final regular season game in 2006, but he tore the left ACL again, which caused him to miss the Tigers' spring game this year.
Horton started every game this season, and also played some snaps on defense when necessary. After completing only the seventh undefeated regular season in school history two weeks ago, Red Bay headed into the playoffs clicking on all cylinders
What happened late Friday night was like a bad dream for the Tigers, but they still have a good shot at facing No. 1 Fyffe if they can get past tonight's second-round opponent, Sand Rock. The Wildcats are unranked and 9-2 this year, but they nearly beat Fyffe in Week 2 and their only other loss came to ninth-ranked Piedmont.
Anyone would have been devastated by what happened last Friday, but Horton has repeatedly demonstrated that he has an uncanny ability to rebound from tough situations, on and off the field. Even though Horton won't be able to help his teammates with his passing and running, Red Bay will still lean on him tonight because he is the unquestioned leader on a team chock-full of them.
In Horton's own words, a champion isn't defined by wins or losses.
"Just because you don't win sometimes, does not mean that you are not successful. As long as you are playing hard and doing what is right, I see that as being successful," said Horton in an interview earlier this season. "Winning is not the main priority of my life. A champion is a person who comes to practice every day and practices hard and is a leader on the team and someone who never gives up."
No matter what happens tonight or during the rest of the playoffs, Horton's contributions have already made their mark at Red Bay.
Kim West is sports editor for The Franklin County Times. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (256) 332-1881.