BAILEY – Taylor Finch, a senior at Southern Nash, had given up on himself and everyone around him.
He was depressed.
He asked himself what he was useful for, if not football.
He questioned his faith.
That was just a few months ago after Finch tore his left ACL at the end of his junior season.
“I thought everything was over,” he said. “... I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t really see the point of working out or anything.”
Like most young athletes who suffer a serious injury, Finch was lost. But now, as he and the Firebirds prepare for a matchup at 7:30 tonight against Ayden-Grifton, Finch is back on the field as a starter.
He no longer lacks confidence.
“I’m good to go,” Finch said, a confident smirk on his face.
Finch has worked his way back into playing shape in just six months.
He is the most severe case amind Southern Nash’s roster of walking wounded, but he’s far from the only injury on a lineup filled with missing players.
Southern Nash already is down to its fourth-string running back and had to call up JV ball carriers Jaquay Mitchell and Mike Portillo in Week 3 against Bunn.
Running backs Grant Jones, Zimonia Knight and Clinton Whitaker have all missed time. Jones and Knight have missed nearly the entire season.
Last year, Southern Nash went without talented offensive lineman Cameron Gardner, who now plays at Wake Forest, for five games, and in the first round of the playoffs, the Firebirds played without their entire starting defensive line.
Running back Molik Lewis also missed all of last season with a torn right ACL.
“It felt like I lost a best friend,” Lewis said of the injury. “You put so much to it, that it was just a waste. ... Every time we went out there, it just hurt even more.”
Finch missed Southern Nash’s loss to Wilson Hunt in the playoffs as well, but just six months after surgery he made it back on the field for the start of training camp on August 1.
“I decided to do something about it,” Finch said of his depressed attitude about his injury. “I started working, doing things right again.
“I saw a change, and I saw myself getting better.”
He isn’t back to 100 percent in all areas.
He still has a little ways to go as far as range of motion, flexibility, vision and confidence in his knee are concerned.
Starters Francisco Trejo, Hunter Parris, Roderick Dunston and Jared Johnson have all missed significant time in the past two years.
Still, Southern Nash, which enters tonight’s game undefeated, has continued to strive without him at full strength – he was a starter for all of last season – as well as the rest of its complete roster.
It’s rooted in the mentality that coach Brian Foster preaches and the entire team understands.
“The next man up always has to be ready,” running back Seth Peyatt said.
What makes the “next man” always ready is the famliarity with the system. From middle school to JV and up to varsity, the playbook is the same.
There’s no difference in what they run, and although it is not a simple or basic offensive scheme, the concepts make it easy to grasp.
Formations change but terminology and the base idea of all plays stays the same.
“They’re just used to doing what we do,” Foster said. “It’s easier to come in and run what we run. Especially when you get used to it, are familiar with it, and know what you are reading. You just have to believe in it.”
Senior Richard Hall, a linebacker at the start of the year, has scored six touchdowns since taking over as the lead ball carrier in the backfield.
Finch has come full circle. After being replaced by the next man after his injury, he has become the next man – breaking an 81-yard touchdown against Roanoke Rapids two weeks ago.
“We’re here to have their backs,” Finch said. “... The next person just stands up and has to be ready to go.”
Foster never has seen anything like the rash of injuries Southern Nash has had to fight through the past two seasons.
He has been with the Firebirds for more than 20 years, and so far, this is the worst. He has no explanation for it. He even has asked the team’s doctor if there is anything they can do to prevent it.
It really is just bad luck.
“It’s just crazy,” said Foster as the undefeated Firebirds prepare for Ayden-Grifton tonight. “It’s hard to be competitive like that.”
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or email@example.com