Erie-Prophetstown Panthers: Putting their best knees forward
Beyer, McConnell key performers
ERIE – Owen McConnell had a goal: Be a starting varsity football player as a sophomore, just like his dad.
McConnell reached that goal in 2011, but only for a few weeks. The Erie-Prophetstown junior started on both sides of the ball as a sophomore, but only until Week 2, when he went down with a torn ACL in his right knee.
Teammate Cody Beyer, a senior, suffered the same fate, tearing the ACL in his right knee in Week 5. Beyer and McConnell, both Erie High School students, are back as key members of a team that head coach Chuck Milem calls far and away his best in his five seasons.
McConnell (6-foot-2, 235 pounds), whose dad, Tim, was a varsity starter as a sophomore at La Harpe High School, is a right guard and defensive tackle. McConnell vividly remembers the moment the injury happened.
"I was pass blocking," he said. "I was planting and it popped. I thought I could play the next play, but it hurt too much. I couldn't put any weight on it.
"I worked so hard that summer. I felt so good being a sophomore starting on the varsity. And, football's my favorite sport. It made me realize that you need to play every play like it's your last."
Beyer (5-11, 200), a starter since his freshman season, was playing running back when he went down. He received honorable mention at linebacker as a sophomore, when he led the team with 99 tackles.
"I was running to the outside and went to cut and it gave out on me," he said. "It felt pretty bad. I knew it was torn up. I figured my season was over."
Then came some 6 months of rehab that included physical therapy three times a week, an agility ladder and one-legged squats.
"There's not much I could do but get in the weight room and get ready for this season," said Beyer, who will start at left tackle and linebacker. "My whole lower body was weak because I hadn't been able to lift. I still lifted arms every day."
Beyer had surgery on Nov. 23. He said he got his medical release about a month and a half early. Beyer and McConnell now wear the same type of brace to protect their knees.
"It isolates the ACL from getting too much wear and tear," Beyer said. "It took some time getting used to, but it's kind of part of me now."
Both Beyer and McConnell profess to being 100 percent.
"It's just as strong, if not stronger, than it used to be," Beyer said.
2011: 1-8 (1-8 Big Rivers)
Coach: Chuck Milem (5th season)
Opener: Aug. 24 vs. Fulton at Erie???
FYI: Have not been in playoffs since last winning season in 2002. ... Are 8-28 in Milem's 4 seasons
If you have any technical difficulties, either with your username and password or with the payment options, please contact us by e-mail at email@example.com