Gallagher column: West injuries keep team doctor busy

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 2, 2008

MOUNT ULLA ó When West Rowan lines up against South Point in the 3A Western final Friday, here’s what the Falcons will put on the field:
– Four bad shoulders.
– Three shaky knees.
– Two sore ankles.
– One broken hand.
– One turf toe.
There it is.
The starting lineup.
Actually, not every Falcon is ailing. It just seems that way to head coach Scott Young. But he says his kids make him one of the proudest coaches around.
“There’s not a lot of coaching you can do to overcome what we have,” Young said of the injuries. “You’ve gotta give those kids credit for being so tough.”
He also gives plenty of credit to local doctors, especially Dean Proctor, who is on the sidelines every game.
“He has done a great job of piecing us back together,” Young said.
Proctor, who was recently named 2008 North Carolina Trainer of the Year, said West’s players have certainly earned his respect.
“This team,” he said, “is pure will.”
One of the more amazing stories is senior defensive back Marco Gupton, who tore up his knee several weeks ago.
Despite an ACL injury, he is still playing. The ACL is the stabilizer in the knee. The other is the quad hamstring.
“Marco is so strong in his quad hamstring that it protected him ó that and his ACL braces,” Proctor said.
Coaches weren’t going to let Gupton on the field in a 20-16 win over Carver last week.
“Before the game, he told me, ‘They’re not going to let me play,’ ” Proctor said. “Marco said, ‘But watch me in warmups. I’m going to prove to them I can play.’ ”
Proctor then watched Gupton help the Falcons on special teams.
Other players with bad knees include defensive back Austin Greenwood and receiver Jonathan Hill.
Another amazing feat is being pulled off by senior receiver Brantley Horton. He broke his hand at the end of the regular season.
“It has been four weeks,” Proctor said. “The hand started healing after two weeks. He told the hand specialist, ‘I want to play,’ and the doctor said he could.”
Horton didn’t catch a pass in a first-round win against Franklin, but he has three grabs in each of the last two playoff games.
How can Horton catch passes with a broken hand?
Proctor took a heel pad and made a doughnut. He cut it to conform to Horton’s hand and taped it on. Proctor even threw Horton some passes.
“He could take the resistance,” Proctor said.
Near the end of the first-round win, quarterback B.J. Sherrill was spotted on the sidelines leaning on crutches. He was suffering from turf toe. His big toe was producing unbearable pain.
Proctor said turf toe basically occurs when the foot is dragged with the toe down.
“It’s a weight-bearing joint,” Proctor explained, “and a quarterback has got to be mobile.”
Proctor put casting tape on the end of Sherrill’s shoe so the toe doesn’t bend. Proctor tried to come up with a splint that goes inside Sherrill’s shoe.
“He didn’t like that,” Proctor said.
There are two major ankle injuries, both to offensive starters.
Tailback K.P. Parks’ condition has been well-documented. He has a high ankle sprain but keeps playing.
So does lineman Joseph Kerley, who has impressed Proctor with his grit.
“Kerley reminds me of that Tom Hanks movie ‘Saving Private Ryan,’ ” Proctor said. “A guy’s on the beach and his arm is sitting there. He picks it up and keeps going. That’s Kerley. He keeps going.”
Two of Kerley’s fellow linemen, Garrett Teeter and Timmy Pangburn, are nursing shoulder injuries.
“They have chronic shoulder sprains from the force they do above the head,” Proctor said.
Defensive end Chris Smith and linebacker Josh Poe have sore shoulders.
Proctor reports that “Smith has played fine with it. He’s a phenom.”
Young says his kids have a high threshold for pain.
“I think they’re hurting on Saturday, Sunday and Monday,” Young said, “then the pain eases up the closer the game gets.
“The vast majority doesn’t miss practice. They can still do the non-contact stuff. We probably don’t win two playoff games without the toughness of these kids ó and the doctors.”
Those Falcons will be on the field Friday, grimacing through the pain.
“Mentally, they’ll be ready to play,” Young insisted.
Proctor said he’ll be there too, “wife-permitting.”
“I enjoy the entire team, but my favorite player to watch is Jon Crucitti,” Proctor said.
Crucitti is not currently hampered by injuries.
“Knock on wood,” Proctor said.
Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4287 or