When the Putnam City Pirates are huddled inside their large, inflatable helmet, Desmond Tilly is the loud one. A senior and an emotional leader, Tilly the one screaming at his teammates to get them pumped up for the challenge ahead.
Then the Pirates run onto the field, and Tilly walks behind, a knee brace supporting his torn ACL.
At Northwest Classen games, senior Terry Arnold is the one getting a little too fired up when his passion for the game and his team overcomes him — whether its from the frustration of a loss, or the agony of not being able to do anything to help.
Watch him walk, and you can scarcely tell he suffered a compound fracture in his foot a couple months ago.
Tilly and Arnold are full of pride for their football teams, but handcuffed by injuries, with no outlet to express that pride on the field.
Such is the plight of Friday nights lost.
Exactly what was lost on those Friday nights is hard to measure, especially in the future. Both players were in position, with a good senior season, to potentially make the jump to become Division I prospects. Now, they're left wondering what lies ahead in their football futures and what opportunities they might have lost.
The past is more finite.
For the last 10 weeks, they've lost the joy of being on the football field. They've lost nine football games, neither of them getting to play a single snap in their final year of high school.
On Friday, they'll each miss out on the opportunity to strap on the pads and helmet for one final time — on Senior Night at their respective stadiums — with other players who have become their brothers on the field and off.
“Not being able to help them really hurts,” said Arnold, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound receiver. “It hurts bad watching them lose. I feel like if I was playing, we could have had a better season. I could have helped the team. It's stressful.
“I tend to get into the game too much. The coaches have to tell me to get back. I try not to let the game get the best of me. I try to keep everything positive and stay strong.”
Arnold suffered a minor fracture in his foot during the summer, but he was cleared to play in August. Then, one week before the season began, he broke the foot in the same place, but this time, much worse.
He continues to work out and rehabilitate the injury, hoping to miss very little of basketball season.
Tilly's story had a couple more twists.
A 6-foot, 190-pound linebacker/running back, Tilly injured his knee in the closing minutes of a scrimmage in the final week of the preseason. Originally diagnosed as a sprained LCL, he thought he might not even miss a game.
But then, the diagnosis was changed to a sprained MCL, with a potential return in the fourth or fifth game.
Tilly even returned to practice at one point, but didn't play against U.S. Grant that Friday, with hopes of getting himself more prepared for a return against Del City the next week.
But one final check-up revealed the true injury, which hadn't been spotted before — a torn ACL.
He came onto the field for the Del City game with his orange cleats dangling around his neck, a symbol of just how badly he wanted to be on the field.