GameDay: A not-so-fitting end to the season for MP's Griffin, DV's Mclennan - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Sports

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GameDay: A not-so-fitting end to the season for MP's Griffin, DV's Mclennan

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Posted: Wednesday, October 5, 2011 3:00 pm

It's a reality most senior football players eventually deal with as the scoreboard slowly ticks away the final seconds of their career.

Unfortunately, it doesn't always end on a clean break like that.

There are times when their careers come to a sudden end. Instead of playing out the full schedule with their classmates, heading into the final game of the year knowing it is their last chance to come out of the locker room, an injury brings it to a screeching halt.

"It's heartbreaking, really," Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan said. "It's not a sport you can play recreationally so when it comes to an end it is the last time most kids will ever play football. When it ends prematurely, it is even harder to let go."

It's what Mountain Pointe senior linebacker Nick Griffin has dealt with since getting injured in the Chandler game on Sept. 22.

At some point in the first quarter, Griffin's right hand broke when it hit a Chandler player's helmet. He went to the trainer, taped it up and proceeded to play the best game of his varsity career.

The fact that he kept playing with the injury is what makes it even harder to deal with the fact that his season, and most likely his career, is over while everyone else on the team is preparing for Thursday's home game against Corona del Sol.

"I played with it, but I knew it was bad," Griffin said. "By the time I got home (after the game) it was really swollen. I had a feeling that I was in trouble."

Turns out Griffin was right.

It was a broken hand, and last Wednesday he had a plate and two screws inserted during outpatient surgery in Cave Creek.

The surgery was the easy part for Griffin. The mental side of it flares up more than the initial pain.

He has played football since an early age and Griffin is facing the distinct possibility he has played his last game. He had hopes of playing at the college level after a successful senior year.

Griffin's scenario is hardly new or singular, as Desert Vista senior linebacker Austin Mclennan tore the anterior cruciate ligament on Sept. 23 against Corona.

Mclennan was on the sideline against Saguaro on Friday, wearing his No. 30 jersey, getting emotionally involved as if he was still playing.

"They were there for me and brought (his spirits) up," Mclennan said. "I had to be there for them. It was hard watching and knowing my season is probably over, but I still have to be there for my teammates."

It is a scenario coaches never get used to dealing with even though they know they have to find a replacement.

They have to look a 17- or 18-year-old kid in the eye and console them while knowing that the player may never step on the field again.

"It is just awful," Vaughan said. "It's hard on the kid, the family, and the team. They don't want it to end, but that's what they are looking at.

"Nick paid his dues and was getting his chance. He was getting there and played really well against Chandler."

Gene Griffin, Nick's father, said they are not ruling out an end-of-the-season comeback, especially if the Pride can make a postseason run.

"We are remaining optimistic," said Griffin, who had a similar injury as a freshman in college. "We will have a follow up appointment on Oct. 10 and see where we stand. If we can get in the playoffs maybe he will get a chance to play again."

Griffin has shown enough that he could probably play at one of the local junior colleges, but he has had plans on attending a four-year college instead of trying to continue his career.

He'll have to fight the urge based on his football playing days alone.

"I kind of keep to myself, so it is hard," Griffin said. "I wanted to keep playing, but I'm not sure if that will happen. Everyone has been trying to keep positive, but it's hard."

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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