The Meridian Star
As soon as the Newton County football team regained two key players from injuries, another three are out after last week's 16-15 loss to Forrest County on Friday night.
The biggest blow is four-star Mississippi State recruit Jamoral Graham. The defensive back and wide receiver broke a finger on his right hand in two places and will require surgery to set the bones.
Additionally, offensive lineman Jacob Mott and kicker Bryden Reed sustained injuries.
Head coach Jackie Williamson said Graham is out the rest of regular season, but should the Cougars' early season success continue through district play, he should be cleared to play in November. Moot and Reed are week-to-week.
"Hopefully we can win enough games to get him back for playoff time," Williamson said. "He got in the game Friday night and he fell just right on it and it broke two it in two spots ... if they hadn't had to pin it, they probably could have put some sort of cast on it and he could still play."
Graham leads the Cougars in touchdowns scored this season with six on the ground and one in the air. In six games, he's nearly matched last season's rushing yardage at 405 to 2012's 495.
In Week 5 against West Lauderdale, Graham slid into the quarterback role while sophomore Jacob Edwards was sidelined with a broken non-throwing hand. In a night of constant rain, Graham lead the Cougars to a 33-10 win over the Knights completing six-of-nine passes for 75 yards and one touchdown, while rushing for 103 yards and three touchdowns.
Graham really stepped up in Edwards absence and Williamson is looking for a similar thing to happen on offense.
"It's a chance for other players to step up and make plays now," Williamson said. "We've got some other weapons on the team and they're going to have to step up and pull the extra weight."
"Trent Hudnall has been playing really good for us, getting him back helped a lot so he's going to have to step up," Williamson said. "Xavier Sharkey has started coming on lately and giving us a little extra punch in there ... the other guy that'll have to step up is De'Andre Wansley."
Williamson has the bodies to fill in where Graham plays – defensive back, wide receiver and running back – it's the affects of future injuries elsewhere on the depth chart that causes a bit of agony.
"We down in numbers," Williamson said. "As a staff we talked about starting to work another person or two at quarterback just in case we get into that situation.
Graham has been selected for two national post-MSHAA season high school bowls – Army All-American and the Marines' Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl –
that put America's best players against each other. Should Graham elect to play in either, both bowls are held in January and his finger should be healed, Williamson said.
Not helping to the situation, especially on offense, is the injury to Mott on the offensive line. He sustained a broke arm, near the wrist.
The sophomore is currently in a cast above the elbow, which will be replaced with a shorter cast in two weeks. Williamson said the smaller cast will allow him to get back into the game before the final games of the season.
Williamson was waiting on official word from doctors on Reed's status, but doesn't expect him to be eligible for this week's game at Northeast after sustaining what test results should show to be a mild concussion. At the most, Reed would retain his extra-point kicking duties to avoid contact situations.
"That's the game of football and that's why you've got players on your team that learn to step up and make plays when somebody is out," Willimanson said.
Luckily for the Cougars, it's still early in the week and still have three days of practice left to adjust – assuming no one else gets hurt.