Rested and ready, Schank is happy to be back

Herald File Photo by Brittney Lohmiller
After missing six games this season, senior running back Tucker Schank returned to action last Friday against Pike Central. The addition of Schank back into the offense gives Southridge yet another weapon to potentially defend their state title. The Raiders hit the road Friday to battle Class 3A No. 8 Gibson Southern at 7:30 p.m. at Jack Jewell Memorial Field.

By JONATHAN SAXON
jsaxon@dcherald.com

HUNTINGBURG — On Southridge’s first offensive play from scrimmage, Tucker Schank took his first carry, found an opening and promptly raced up the field for 49 yards and the first score against Pike Central last Friday.

The Raiders went on to beat the Chargers 48-0, but for Schank, this win meant just a bit more as he finally returned to the field after a six-game absence.

“I felt pretty fresh and amped up,” he said. “I usually stay pretty calm during a game because I like to conserve energy. But on that first play we were really jacked up. When I got the ball on that first carry I decided to let it loose because I had been cooped up standing on the sideline for so many weeks.”

Schank missed a large chunk of the football season due to aggravating a stress-fracture in his lower lumbar vertebrae. It’s an injury he played through during Southridge’s past baseball season, and at first he thought it might just be a muscle sprain.

He noticed pain in his back during the summer while participating in the football team’s morning workouts, and tried to give himself more time to recover leading up to the Raiders’ first game against Linton. But after that first week, Schank and the team decided to let him rest for a long-term period instead of risking further injury to his back.

“The doctor and my family decided resting for the long haul and coming back for the later part of the season would be the only fix for it,” said Schank. “You can only rest this injury, so I kind of went back to square one.”

Raiders coach Scott Buening didn’t fight the plan to give Schank rest even though he would miss multiple games. For him, he didn’t want Schank to further injure himself and be robbed of a chance to participate in the other sports he plays during the school year for Southridge.

“There was a good plan put in place,” he said. “He’s got long season’s ahead of him, it’s not just football season. He’s such a good wrestler and baseball player, you just want to see the young man healed and not battling (injuries) every game just to get through it. Shutting him down was the right decision for him.”

Over the course of his hiatus, Schank admits it was hard to just sit at times and have to wait on his body to heal. He said it’s hard for him to sit still, he’s always on the go and trying to be active when he is able.

But a silver lining came from the injury in that he grew as a more vocal leader while he was on the sideline and doing everything he could to support his teammates and help them prepare for games to the best of his abilities.

“During the first couple of weeks I didn’t do as good as I wanted to verbally for the guys because it was such a big adjustment for me,” he said. “Usually I like to lead with actions on the field. But then I started to come to grips with (the situation). So in the meantime I just did whatever I could to give advice to players in practice and motivate the guys from the sideline the best I could. I wasn’t good at it at first, but then I slowly developed into it.”

But while he was cheering from the sideline, Schank was encouraged with how his teammates were able to band together and stay dominant on the ground. The combination of Cole Calvert, Seth Nunamaker and Colson Montgomery kept the ground game strong and Schank is happy being able to step back into an offense that hasn’t missed a beat for the most part this season.

“That was huge because it gave some of the younger guys an opportunity to mature and step up in case any other situation arises in the future,” he said. “It’s also huge because we’ve had a lot of other guys get hurt throughout the season. I know if they need to come back in at any time during the rest of the season, they’ll be ready for it.”

But as evidenced by his 142-yard, three-touchdown performance Schank adds another level of dynamic talent to the Raiders’ offense.

A factor Buening is happy to have available once again.

“By adding him back in the mix, it’s going to add another dynamic to what our offense is capable of doing,” he said. “He’s a multifaceted kid. He’s able to run the football well, but he is also a tremendous receiver. Hopefully as we work to find our identity with him, that might take us a bit of time. Having that added weapon makes you better in so many ways.”

For now Schank’s biggest concern is just getting back into full football shape so he can help Southridge as they march on to defend their state title.

But he feels he’s back where he needs to be for the greatest impact and now it’s just a matter of following that old football adage —  take it one game at a time.

“The back is feeling good, just taking it step by step and monitoring it closely,” he said. “I feel very thankful to be out here practicing because I know what it feels like to not get to do that. Our focuses are toward the future. We’re just going to take it week by week.”

The Raiders hit the road Friday to battle Class 3A No. 8 Gibson Southern at 7:30 p.m. at Jack Jewell Memorial Field.




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