Tough life of bruised and battered
Life as a fullback/linebacker is a rough existence in the IHSA football playoffs.
That point does not need to be driven home to Amboy’s Bailey Appleman and Orion’s Dylan Schultz.
After the Clippers’ 43-18 victory on Saturday night, the team gathered around head coach Gary Jones. He gave a speech about how happy he was with their play and how elated he was that the team advanced to the quarterfinals next week against undefeated Mercer County.
Appleman took the speech in while hanging on a pair of teammates for support, his right ankle throbbing. Assistant coach Jeramey Wittenauer later inquired about the use of a Gator to haul Appleman to the locker room.
Schultz, meanwhile, played most of the game virtually with one arm, the result of an injury suffered last week against Eastland-Pearl City that he aggravated early against Amboy. While hanging out on the field after the game among a sullen Charger crowd, a teammate attempted to lighten the mood by asking, “How you doing? Do you want me to kiss it?”
Appleman’s day ended with 4 minutes, 48 seconds remaining in
the first quarter. The Clippers’ middle linebacker found himself on the wrong end of a pileup after an Orion running play.
“I hit a guy with my left shoulder, and the pile ended up falling on my right ankle,” Appleman said. “I heard my ankle pop, crack – it didn’t sound too good.”
Appleman’s leaving meant opportunity was knocking for teammates. In this case, that meant senior Jackson Sorrells and junior Kevin Skoff.
Sorrells, a starting outside linebacker, found himself taking over at fullback. It was a role he filled as a starter in Weeks 2 and 3 this season, until a broken hand suffered in Week 4 against Morrison forced him to cede the job to Appleman. Sorrells played five games with a cast on defense.
“It wasn’t a big deal,” said Sorrells, who had 10 carries for 31 yards, while also leading the way for speedy halfbacks Cooper Nelson and Spencer Johnson. “I knew my job, the offensive line did great, and we just made holes so the backs could get their yards.”
Skoff, meanwhile, found himself in the middle of the action as the Clippers’ new middle linebacker. A special teamer, he noted his previous biggest play this season was a kickoff coverage tackle against Riverdale in which he brought down a Ram on the 10-yard line.
He held his own against the Chargers, and even made a 1-on-1 stop on one of Orion’s pet plays – a swing pass out in the flat.
“I was really excited,” Skoff said. “I got to play my first game, and I tore stuff up.”
Schultz, meanwhile, found himself coming in and out of the game after the first quarter, despite having what he believed was a possible broken clavicle or an AC joint injury. His left arm simply hung to its side most of the second half, and when he received a hard hit after catching a pass on the first play of the fourth quarter, his day was done.
“I played as much as I could and as much as Coach would allow me,” Schultz said. “It’s looking pretty serious now, but I just needed to go in there and make some plays for my team. I did what I could.”