The high school football season will be kicking off in a few weeks. And despite a major setback in the spring, Connor Eischeid expects to be handling that opening kickoff for Silverdale Baptist Academy.
As a freshman last season, Eischeid handled the kickoff, field-goal and extra-point duties for Silverdale's 11-2 team that reached a Class 2A state quarterfinal.
"He made a couple of touchdown-saving tackles, too," Silverdale coach Al Rogers said. "I'm not talking about running them down from behind. He might've gotten up with his helmet on a little sideways, but the ball carrier knew he got hit."
Eischeid was playing soccer -- something he had done since he was 4 years old -- when on May 1 in a match against District 5-A/AA opponent Sequoyah, he and a Chiefs player kicked the ball simultaneously.
The impending fallout led to Rogers, there at the time, asking Eischeid, "Can you kick with your left foot, son?"
Eischeid had suffered an injury that included a fracture of the femur in his kicking leg.
"My kneecap went over there," Eischeid said, pointing to the outside of his right leg. "It was not a fun experience."
During surgery, two screws were inserted around his knee, and they remain there. He was placed in a brace, but one that had some flexibility where the knee bends.
By mid-June he was off crutches and began attending physical-therapy sessions three times a week. He's now down to one session per week.
"For where I want to be, I'm about 50 percent," Eischeid said. "I can kick from about 30 yards. My highest is 43. Our first game is August 22nd, and right now I've set my goal to get to 50."
If attitude and enthusiasm count for anything, he'll get there.
"He just got back out here Monday," Rogers said. "He texted me that he was ready to go. 'What do I need to do?' He's there. He's fired up."
Eischeid is 6-foot-2 and weighed 145 pounds when he was making those bone-jarring tackles last fall. Currently he checks in at 135. He's still working on regaining the weight but said he's at least a couple weeks ahead of schedule on his expected recovery.
In spite of graduating 14 off last year's Class A team, there are high expectations within the Seahawks' camp. They enter their 10th year as a varsity program continuing to chase that elusive first district championship, but Eischeid believes this could be the year they get their kicks.
"We've got six seniors and everyone else is an underclassman," Eischeid said, "but I think we'll actually be really good this year."
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.