With the game slipping away, East Union football coach Willie Herrera turned his attention to the ambulance near the north end zone.
His team captain and the emotional leader of his defense was laying on a gurney, surrounded by family and friends.
One year after suffering a compound fracture in his lower leg, East Union senior Nick McGill limped gingerly off the field late in Friday evening’s 26-13 loss to Grace Davis.
McGill appeared to reinjure his surgically repaired left ankle early in the fourth quarter following an 8-yard run by Grace Davis quarterback Zach Magana.
With just over 7 minutes left in the game, McGill hobbled to the sideline and immediately fell to the turf, wincing with pain. McGill was given intravenous fluids near the ambulance.
Herrera left the sideline with 2:41 left in the game and his team trailing 26-7 to check on his star linebacker.
“I don’t know how bad it is,” Herrera said after the loss. “Obviously, when you’re sitting on a stretcher getting an IV it’s not the best deal.”
Fortunately, the injury isn’t as serious as it looked.
Herrera said McGill will miss two to three weeks, putting him on track to return for East Union’s Valley Oak League opener against Oakdale Sept. 27 or one week later at Kimball.
The injury was the last in a rough debut for the Lancers.
East Union (0-1) surrendered three consecutive touchdowns in the third and fourth quarters, watching a 7-6 lead evaporate.
Herrera believes his team grew in the loss, but expressed concern after seeing his captains helped from the field Friday.
Captain Jose Maltez also left the game with a knee injury early in the second half. He sat on a bench with his right knee wrapped in bandage and his pads off. After the game, he was helped off the field by Victor Lopez and another player.
Like McGill, Maltez is also expected to miss two to three weeks.
“Those are our rocks,” Herrera said. “Those are the two our guys follow. You never want to see that, especially with kids that are seniors.”
Before his injury, Maltez was a featured player in Herrera’s new Wing offense. He carried the ball 10 times for 38 yards and had multiple gains of 5 yards and a 10-yard rumble.
McGill was featured on both sides of the ball, but he was at his very best anchoring a run defense that held Grace Davis running backs to minus-3 yards.
He finished with six tackles (three solo stops), one sack and one pass defended. He was flagged for an unsportsmanlike penalty for taunting following his first quarter sack.
Excuse his excitement.
Doctors and East Union coaches weren’t so sure McGill would ever return to the football field.
McGill missed the last four games of the 2012 season after breaking a bone and rupturing the Achilles’ tendon in his left ankle while making a tackle against Weston Ranch on Oct. 5.
The injury was so horrific and graphic, Herrera wondered if McGill would ever run again.
During a Bulletin photo shoot in August, McGill said doctors told him his recovery would take at least two years. McGill was back on the field – and chasing ball carriers – by summer.
He was named a standout at the Lake Tahoe Football Camp, and on Friday looked every bit the impact player Herrera thinks he can be.
East Union hosts Orestimba on Friday, and may catch a break. Running back Steven Machado sat out Friday’s loss to Le Grand with a strained hamstring. Machado has rushed for 3,220 yards and scored 26 touchdowns in two varsity seasons.
At the moment, though, Herrera’s only concern is with his stars – not the Warriors’ dynamic ball carrier.
“The young men are fine,” Herrera wrote The Bulletin on Saturday afternoon.