Broken arm sidelines Slater
The Lansing High football team's roster will be loaded with experienced players this fall, but the Lions will be forced to play - at least for part of the season - without a two-way starter.
Senior Jeff Slater - a starter at tailback and linebacker - broke his arm two weeks ago during an AAU basketball game in Indiana when he was pushed to the floor while driving to the basket.
Slater broke the humerus bone, which runs from the shoulder to the elbow. Because it is an upper arm break, Slater will miss at least eight weeks, LHS football coach Bill Pekarek said.
"If it's a lower arm break, you can usually cast those up and play, but this is an upper arm. They can't hardly do those things with that," Pekarek said of the injury. "We're not very pleased about it, but it's something that we're going to have to live with, and there's a reason for why things happen. We've just got to go on from there."
Pekarek said he'd been told that Slater would be out for a minimum of eight weeks. That means that if the arm heals quickly, Slater possibly could be back for the Sept. 30 game at Spring Hill. It's also possible he could miss the entire season.
Pekarek said he had spoken with Slater about what his role would be while injured.
"We want him with us in the locker room, on the sideline, not up in the stands," Pekarek said. "We want him to be vocal and to be with us at practices. He was one of the guys that would step up in the locker room before games and talk. I still want that kind of thing from him.
"I know he's going to try to keep his legs in good shape if he can," Pekarek added. "He'll be on a bike or at practice jogging."
Pekarek said the likely candidates to replace Slater at tailback were junior Kyle Grape and sophomore Mike Griffin. Both will have big shoes to fill - Slater rushed for a team-high 747 yards and 11 touchdowns last year - but Pekarek said he was confident both could do a good job because the Lions have enough talented blockers returning.
"I've always felt like anybody can run the ball if you're getting the job done up front," Pekarek said. "We feel like we've got quality offensive and defensive linemen. We had it a year ago. We feel like we may be in even better shape this year."
The Lions return one of the most experienced offensive lines in the Kaw Valley League with seniors Logan Ryan, Jordan Pratt, Chris Clemmons and junior Peter Willcott. Senior fullback Lance Fink (374 yards rushing) also will be back to serve as a lead blocker.
The greater loss, Pekarek said, would be Slater's influence on defense. He led the Lions with a team-best 118 tackles in 2004. Junior Joe Kohl likely will take over Slater's linebacker spot.
"Joe played well for us last year," Pekarek said. "He came in and played for both linebackers last year and always seemed to get to the football. He usually was involved in the play in some way. We're expecting the same thing from Joe this year."