MVHS varsity football players react to team injuries

Athletic+trainer+Marie+Gishifu+bandages+a+deep+cut+Junior+James+Midgal+got+during+MVHS%E2%80%99+homecoming+game+again+against+PAHS.+Photo+by+Trisha+Kholiya.+++

Athletic trainer Marie Gishifu bandages a deep cut Junior James Midgal got during MVHS’ homecoming game again against PAHS. Photo by Trisha Kholiya.

Avni Prasad

*Correction: There were 40 players in this year’s roster and 35 in last year’s roster

Four minutes into the fourth quarter and it is fourth down for MVHS. Senior Wells Chang, lines up on the line of waiting for the signal to snap the football. The scoreboard reads Palo Alto High School 34 and MVHS 21. We can catch up, he thinks to himself. We are so close.

“Hike!”

Chang snaps the ball to quarterback Junior Golan Gingold. Chang knows what he must do. He pushes the first defensive tackle out of the way and heads for the linebacker upfield. But the defensive tackle that Chang had left behind was making a run towards Chang. Chang blocks the linebacker long enough for junior Joseph Kim to receive the ball and make his run, but he is too slow to avoid the tackle. Chang falls to the ground, while Kim runs the ball past the end zone for a touchdown. Chang did his job. The scoreboard reads Palo Alto 34 and Monta Vista 27. The crowd yells. They are catching up. But, Chang is still laying on the ground. Why am I on the field right now? Chang thought. Am I on this team? What is happening?

Wells Chang, player 75, blocks two PAHS during homecoming game in which he received his first concussion. Photo by Trisha Kholiya.
Wells Chang, player 75, blocks two PAHS during homecoming game in which he received his first concussion. Photo by Trisha Kholiya.

After the game, athletic trainer Marie Gishifu diagnosed Chang with a concussion. He could not drive home that night. He had to avoid bright lights and loud noises. Under league rules he was also banned from playing for an entire week.

“Being hurt is sadder than playing and losing,” Chang said referring to sitting out during the Wilcox High School game scheduled for the next week. “When you are hurt, you feel useless… When you are hurt, you get the feeling of ‘wow, I am letting my team down.’”

This season, over 15 players have had to miss at least one game due to an injury. Injuries vary from sprained ankles to shoulder dislocations and concussions. Many players look at these injuries as a result of the team playing a league higher than last year.

“The schools we are playing against [this season] are bred for football,” junior Sayi Boddu said. “In the lower league we played teams that were more similar to us — it was an even playing field.”

The gap between the leagues have resulted from the gap in the football team’s roster. Though the team excelled in the El Camino league last season, even earning first place, many of the star players that made this feat possible have gone to college and the gap between the El Camino league and De Anza league, which they are currently playing in, is drastic.

“We don’t have a lot of depth this year,” Boddu said. “Last year, we had a lot of good players and other good players to replace them if they got injured. This year, we do not have a lot of players to replace [the injured players].”

Surprisingly, this year the football team has 40* players compared to last year’s 35* players. However, Boddu estimates about 15 to 20 players have been injured at various times during this season.

Athletic trainer Marie Gishifu bandages a deep cut Junior James Midgal got during MVHS’ homecoming game again against PAHS. Photo by Trisha Kholiya.
Athletic trainer Marie Gishifu bandages a deep cut Junior James Midgal got during MVHS’ homecoming game again against PAHS. Photo by Trisha Kholiya.

“Because of all the injuries,” junior Sanat Sangamalli said, “we are having to move a lot of guys around — playing positions they are not used to.”

Varsity Football Coach Jeff Mueller had to put players who were not yet prepared into league games. According to Boddu, being prepared means feeling comfortable enough in a position that the pressure of the game does not impede one’s game.

“It’s a combination of both physical and mental skill that is required to be prepared to play,” Boddu said.

Boddu admitted to being one of those players who the coach at first did not believe was ready to play in a league game. However, he believes the injuries of the other players gave him a chance to showcase his potential. When Chang couldn’t play at the WHS game (PHOTO GALLERY: Football falls to Wilcox High School), Boddu had to step up to Chang’s position. Though Boddu admits that Chang’s position requires a defending style similar to his regular position as a guard, the difference is in the person he is defending. Chang’s original position as guard requires defending a faster player versus Boddu’s original position as tackle requires guarding a bigger player.

“It is less about changing positions and more about stepping up to the position,” Chang said.

Regardless of the changes made on the football field, there has not been a change in the number of players who show up to practice.

“Even if you are hurt,” Chang says, “you need to be there to support your teammates because you are still on the team and they are playing for you.”

During practice, the players admit that Coach Mueller has lessened the contact to avoid “unnecessary injuries.” However, Chang noticed a change in the player’s mentality towards injuries.

“[We have the] mindset of ‘Wow, my team really needs me right now and I cannot afford to get hurt,’” Chang said. “If you get a little boo-boo — like if you twist your ankle — just brush it off.”

When Chang was lying on the turf after he was hit by a Palo Alto football player, his friend pulled him off the ground, told Chang they got the touchdown and warned him to get off the field.

I have five minutes to get my head back in the game, Chang thought to himself as he waited on the sideline while MVHS was on defense. He did not mouth a word about his concussion to his coach. I am the last person who can play this position, Chang thought to himself. I have to stay in.

And he did. Chang played the rest of the game. MVHS scored another touchdown. They were catching up. But when the final whistle blew marking the end of the game, the scoreboard read 41-35, with PAHS winning the game (Football: MVHS loses a close game to Palo Alto High School at 35-41).

“It’s disappointing when your season comes down to the point where it is not a show of how good your team is, but a show of how many people can play,” Chang said. “But [at the end of the day] you want to play for your teammates. You want to win for your teammates. That’s what football is — a team sport.”