Carl Junction’s football team has been through this adversity before.
However this time, it’s worse.
Bulldogs coach Doug Buckmaster and his staff were quite satisfied with the players’ summer workouts, but at the last event — a team camp at Bentonville (Ark.) West High School — quarterback Alex Baker, who started half the season last year, and linebacker Isiac Shields, the leading tackler the past two seasons, both went down with injuries.
“We played better in that team camp than we played at any time last year,” Buckmaster said. “We were feeling really good about things, and then boom, those two kids go down. This happened on the last two days of summer workouts. Baker was hurt on the last play of the session.”
Carl Junction fans certainly remember that one year ago at the same team camp, standout running back-defensive back Rayquion Weston suffered an injury that proved to be season ending.
“I won’t go back,” Buckmaster said. “I like the camp and I like the physicality of things and the good competition. But I won’t go back ... whether we’re jinxed or what.”
And then on the first day of fall camp almost two weeks ago, returning center Ethan Howard went down with an injury.
Buckmaster said all three are sidelined indefinitely, and he is holding out hope that they can return late in the season.
The injury to Baker has resulted in an unexpected battle for the starting quarterback job.
“Garret Taylor (senior) and Drew Patterson (junior) are competing with a couple of sophomore kids (Shane Diskin and Kyler Perry),” Buckmaster said. “You have to have somebody who can run our offense and manage the game. Our quarterbacks to this point have done a very good job. We still have time to get better. That’s the up side to it.”
Should Taylor win the job, his high school career would come full circle at the positioin.
“When he was a freshman, he played quarterback,” Buckmaster said. “As a sophomore he played receiver and quarterback (in junior varsity), and then he started at wide receiver last year. Never thought I’d have to play him at quarterback again.”
As preseason workouts reach the midway point, Buckmaster reports the Bulldogs have shown good leadership.
“We’re really pleased with the leadership on this football team, and we’re pleased with the team chemistry,” he said. “We’ve been talking about injuries ... that’s a lot of adversity to overcome. When you’re the smallest school in the COC and half of the schools are twice as big as you are in enrollment, it’s hard. And you lose three of your best players, that’s hard to overcome.
“But our kids have seemed to take the adversity and turned it into a positive for us as far as how they are practicing and competing. We have to play with effort. If they put out the effort and try to get better at what they are doing and what they are being taught, we’ll be just fine. I’ve been pleased with how they have reacted to the adversity.”
The Bulldogs will play in their jamboree on Friday night at Monett against Carthage, Nevada and the Cubs. The action begins at 7.
The season opener comes on Aug. 30 at home against Webb City.