Make It or Break It: Football 2016


“23. 23. Set, break.” Senior Eli Kurlbaum squats into position at the line of scrimmage. It felt like he had run the play a thousand times at practice. He knew that it was a quick hand off for him to run the ball to the right. He knew that he had to fight hard and pick up those extra yards. He knew to accelerate, stay balanced and push.

But the one thing Kurlbaum didn’t know was that one push would mark the end of his high school football career. With a torn ACL, he would have to join his other injured teammates as they finish out their senior season from the sideline.

“Right when it happened I was really disappointed because I knew I’d never be able to play again and I’d worked the whole season up,” Kurlbaum said. “It happened the first game I had started in, so that was just really tough for me.”

Along with Kurlbaum, seniors Simon Bradley, Peter Haynes, Jake Randa and Carl Young also suffered career ending injuries. Two torn ACL’s, a broken thumb, a torn meniscus and a fractured heel cut these players’ last season short. 

This meant no more grueling weekday practices, no more heavy lifting with Delaney during first hour, no more friday night lights – everything they loved the most was no more.

With five of their most talented players on the bench, no one could expect the Lancers to stay successful. No one could expect the team to keep winning and carry themselves to the playoffs. But that’s just what they did. 

“The team had to accept that those seniors wouldn’t be there to lead them,” junior Milton Braasch said. “We all had to step up and fulfill our ‘next man up’ mentality.”

This ‘next man up’ mentality meant that each player on the team should expect injury and be prepared to perform just as well as the man above him. This forced every player in the Lancer blue uniform to train like they would step out on the field the next day. 

Even underclassmen like sophomore Garret Boschen had to be prepared to step out onto the field at any moment. At practice, Boschen was constantly pushing himself to run faster, block stronger and work harder just in case his moment ever came.

And then it did. 

“[After Eli’s injury] I knew that I was the next man up, and that was a little nerve wracking because I didn’t want to let the team down,” Boschen said. “But I knew that it was my responsibility so I worked hard and did the best that I could.”

Following the powerful mantra, the impressive adjustments from players like Boschen and strong support from the seniors allowed the lancers to beat the odds and extend their season into the playoffs. But their success couldn’t last forever.

The team was defeated by the Blue Valley Tigers in overtime of the substate game when a gutsy two point conversion play ended the lancer’s season.

Although the boys were devastated, they were proud as well. Proud of their team. Proud of how far they’d come. And for most, proud to come back next season and do it all again. 

“It will definitely be hard next year with all of the talented seniors leaving, but hopefully we can make it back to state,” Boschen said. “But with Delaney as our coach and all of the other talented guys on our team, we’ll find a way.”