It was on Nov. 16 when the McPherson High School football team was facing Goddard High School in the Class 4A Semifinals. Wide receiver Aaron Powell made a big play after a deep ball pass from Kyler Hoppes. At first, everyone in McPherson Stadium was cheering loud enough for the whole town to hear them, but two minutes later, it turned to dead silence. Powell was still down after that play. He suffered an ankle injury. Since then, it has been a long journey back for the soon-to-be junior, and he's ready to make a comeback.
Everyone from his teammates, parents and the McPherson community were all in awe after Powell struggled to get back up. He eventually was carted off and was taken to the hospital.
"When I came down with that ball, it was a great pass by Kyler (Hoppes), it came with a lot of force, and then my ankle just popped. I felt it, and someone even said they heard something," Powell said. "I didn't realize it was broken until right when I rolled over and felt my ankle just kind of moved a little bit, and I was like something wasn't right."
Powell's right ankle was shattered, breaking both his tibia and fibula. It was Powell's biggest injury he has ever sustained playing football. Three days after his injury, he went into surgery. He left with a six-inch plate on his right side of his ankle, along with some screws and a rod that went through it. After that, he couldn't do anything for the next five weeks.
"When I first started, I wasn't walking at all and stuff," Powell said. "After about four weeks of just sitting there and moving my ankle around, I was stiff. It was hard getting back in motion.
"I kind of see it as—I think someone up top was trying to test me and make sure if I can come out with a big bang, and that's what I think I'm doing right now. Just coming back, making sure I'm stronger."
Fortunately for Powell, due to his rehab training, he was one month ahead of schedule. Brandon Labertew, McPherson's head trainer, played a role in nursing Powell back to health. He also had the support of his fellow teammates, who would come by and visit him while he was in the hospital.
"I probably had about 40 players just visiting me just to make sure I was good," Powell said. "That just shows how much of a family we are, and where we want to be in how we support everyone in town."
Powell got into football due to the influence of his older brother, Andrew, who played for the Bullpups until his senior year. Powell was more concerned on how his older brother felt after his injury.
"He's been behind me my whole life," Powell said. "I looked up to him more than anyone. He's the one who put a helmet on me first. After I saw him play in middle school, my main goal was to beat him in things. He has pushed me to that."
Powell played running back all through middle school before switching to wide receiver later in high school. He may lack the ideal size of a football player at 5-foot-10 140 pounds, but has the breakaway speed to make up for it. Last season, as a fourth option, he caught nine catches for 229 yards and three touchdowns. One of his longest plays was a 73-yard reception for a touchdown. He also made plays while on special teams.
Going into the 2019 season, the Bullpups lost their three playmakers at the receiving corp in Gabe Hoover, Talyn Huff and Chandler Wiard. Powell is confident in the young receivers that can step in and fill the spots.
"I'm just excited to see what I can go against them," Powell said. "We all are teaching each other new things. We have all these young kids, and I'm coaching them up. We're all coaching each other up and being a family about it."
As he gets ready for fall camp, he alone has a big shoe to fill as he takes over at the H-spot. A position Hoover played in the last two seasons. Some might say there's pressure on him after making his return to the field since his ankle injury, but Powell is looking forward to the challenge.
"I'm filling a big spot, but I worked with a Gabe a lot. My main goal is to get the team better, and whenever the big moment needs to happen, I want to be that guy I want to step up and make that big play," Powell said. "If it goes to someone else, I just got to be happy for them. Just to let my team know that I got their back no matter what."
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