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The John Hardin Bulldogs received some good news Monday, but they’re going to have to wait until Friday to see if they can get some more.
John Hardin senior Matt Elam arrived at Bulldog Stadium with a huge smile. He still was noticeably limping, but the smile told the story. The 6-foot-6, 360-pound defensive tackle didn’t tear the ACL or MCL in his left knee.
“I’m very relieved,” Elam said. “They told me nothing was torn. That’s all I really needed to know. To find out it was nothing too serious, it was a huge relief.”
Elam has a partially dislocated patella and swelling around his meniscus. He injured his knee on the final play of the third quarter in John Hardin’s 28-14 win over the Bullitt East Chargers in the Class 5-A, Region 2 championship at Bulldog Stadium.
Although he doesn’t have a torn ligament, Elam’s status for Friday night’s state semifinal game at Bowling Green is unknown. John Hardin coach Chad Lewis said Elam is day-to-day.
“We thought he had something more serious, so that’s about the best news we could have gotten today,” Lewis said. “But he still has a long way to go before he can play. We’ll have to see how he progresses. At this time, I don’t see how he’s going to play Friday night where he is today.”
But Elam isn’t ruling it out. He has been icing the knee and spent the weekend to take pressure off of it. It’s a catch 22 for Elam, who needs to keep it elevated but exercise it to get movement back in it.
“I’m trying to stay off of it, but trying to stay on it at the same time,” Elam said. “I have a lot more movement now. On Friday, it was don’t touch it and now it’s not as sore. It hurt so much to do little things like to get into the shower. It feels a lot better. I’m just going to try to get the most I can to my teammates and help them anyway I can.”
This season, Elam has made 84 tackles, including 66 solo stops. He has a team-best 15 tackles for a loss.
If Elam can’t play, Lewis said senior Vince Motley will likely get the nod. Other options include junior Jared Givan, the team’s starting center, and senior Jaiquan Brown.
“I talked to guys today and they know how important Matt is to our defense,” Lewis said. “He’s one of the cornerstones of the defense and the guys feed off that. If he can’t play, other guys are going to have to pick up the slack and perform. It’s going to take a full team effort.”
Senior defensive tackle Koufax Stephens, who has 45 tackles, understands John Hardin’s task of slowing down Bowling Green’s explosive offense becomes much tougher if Elam doesn’t play.
“We’re going to have to step up,” Stephens said. “I’m just glad he’s healthy and it’s nothing serious. I know all he wants to do is play. If he can’t play, those are big shoes to fill. We have to stay focused. We need to step up and play for him.”
Chuck Jones can be reached at 270-505-1759 or email@example.com.