Knies persevering after heartbreaking month

Photo by Corey Stolzenbach/The Herald
Forest Park senior Conner Knies (left), raises his finger in the air, as fellow senior midfielder/forward JD Kerber (right) walks with him Sept. 13 in the Rangers’ 4-2 win at Northeast Dubois. Knies scored a goal in that game, his first since his father Michael's passing eight days earlier.

By HUNTER TICKEL
htickel@dcherald.com

FERDINAND — It's been a tragic September for Conner Knies.

The Forest Park senior midfielder/forward spent time on the sideline due to contact tracing and sat the past two weeks with a severe bone bruise.

Sandwiched in between these two events was the loss of his dad, Michael, 49, from COVID-19 complications on Sept. 5.

"I don't know, it's pretty hard to try to get over that stuff, about my dad," Knies said. "It's just tragic. People shouldn't have to go through that. I mean, hey, it just makes people stronger, I guess."

Michael was entrenched in Forest Park hoops folklore for capturing the school's inaugural sectional basketball title in 1990 in a single-class setup.

"He loved basketball," Knies said. "He was just always pushing forward. He was always the person that would do the most out of anyone. He would see a goal, and he would push to it. He would always succeed that goal."

Eight days after his dad's death, Knies made his return to the field, scoring a goal in his team's 4-2 win against Northeast Dubois.

"(Playing) helps me get everything off my mind," Knies said. "Pretty much, I'm just doing it for him. Like, I know he would want me to play through this, and not have it on my mind, but you can't do anything about it. I'm just going to play for him."

The support from his teammates and coaching staff left an open door for a return this campaign.

"He knows we're here for him," coach Mike Foerster said. "I think he feels like we're a family, this team. He's got great bonds with the rest of the guys. Of course, it's vulnerable, you're vulnerable in that situation. We told him, take as much time as you need, and he wanted to come back immediately, and he did. That just shows you what kind of character he has."

His longtime friend, neighbor and teammate junior forward/midfielder Carter Hinson was one of many in the community to provide moral support.

"I know he's handled it very well, especially for his age," Hinson said. "All the guys have helped him, and his family has supported him amazingly. It's helped him a lot. I know that."

Hinson, who developed a close relationship with Michael, leaned on him for advice.

"He was a great person, he was there for anybody and everybody," Hinson said. "If you ever needed anything, (you) could go there and talk to him, and he would give you everything you needed. He was just a great guy, all-around.

Foerster said the highlight of a 12-match unbeaten streak for his 10-4-2 side was a 1-1 draw with Providence (Clarksville) on Sept. 21. The Pioneers are the defending Class A state champions.

Ranked seventh in Class 1A, the Rangers' streak came to a halt on Thursday in a 6-0 loss to Gibson Southern, a match that featured the return of Knies, off the bench.

Knies looks to put an unfortunate month in the rearview.

"He's been great, mentally," Foerster said. "He's been a leader on the bench for us."




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