STARKVILLE — Injuries are a part of sports, and there”s no surefire way to avoid them.
All a player can hope to do is train hard, play at a high-level and properly treat minor injuries.
For a pair of Starkville High senior football players, coming back from injuries has been as big a part of their football careers as playing the game itself.
Yellow Jackets starting center Ben Newman missed all but one quarter last season due to torn ankle ligaments and most of his sophomore season with a broken leg, respectively.
Senior defensive end Prinston Henderson, who was in and out of the lineup due to minor injuries last season, missed Starkville”s first four games after a delayed recovery from preseason meniscus surgery.
Heading into tonight”s home rivalry match against Tupelo (3-2), both players are thankful to be on the field and contributing to the Jackets” resurgent season.
“It feels good to be back on the field because that”s where I want to be,” Henderson said Wednesday. “I worked hard to get back out there and I had fun against DeSoto (Central).”
Newman, who has started at center since Week 1, went through rehabilitation periods of six and eight months, missing the spring between his sophomore and junior seasons. He says the ankle injury involved more cardiovascular work since he was able to run sooner than when he was rehabbing his broken leg.
He was able to return this spring, as head coach Jamie Mitchell took over for Bill Lee, who retired following the end of the ”09 season.
Missing nearly all of his first two seasons as a varsity player has actually helped him adjust quickly to a new system.
“I hadn”t been ingrained with the previous offense so I was able to pick things up pretty easily,” Newman said. “I think I picked up the offense quicker than some of the other players.”
The Jackets rotate four players at both guard positions, and most of them play both offense and defense, making Newman”s role the most vital across the offensive front.
“I have to make sure they know what they”re doing,” Newman said. “I make sure we know the schemes, and the coaches have given me a little bit more responsibility throughout the year. Pass protections and things of that nature.”
Henderson, much like Newman, has seen increased responsibility following his return from injury. Last season, Henderson played linebacker and defensive end with fewer reads to make. As a starting anchor end this year, he”s responsible for much more.
“Last year was kind of ”don”t let anybody get outside of you,”” Henderson said. “Now you got to worry about where the tight end”s going, where the running back”s going and where the quarterback is going. This is more difficult than the split four.”
Defense not getting respect
Defensive end Prinston Henderson has played in only one of Starkville High”s five games this season, but he”s seen enough to know people are sleeping on the Yellow Jackets” defense.
Starkville gives up an average of 12.8 points per game and has limited Class 4A power Noxubee County and 5A giant West Point to 20 points or less.
“They don”t understand how much we”ve improved since last year, when we gave up a lot of points and depended on the offense to score a lot,” Henderson said. “Now, the offense puts a little more than 14 points on the board and we got a great chance of winning that game.”
As the Jackets prepare for Tupelo running back Austin Shumpert, whom Henderson likens to former South Panola running back Nick Parker and former Olive Branch back KeyShun Shipp, there”s an air of confidence in SHS” scheme, Henderson said.
“The way coaches were telling us we were going to be pretty good on defense was that they were going to put the people that can run and hit over here on defense,” Henderson said. “It”s paid off.”