These are the times that try men's souls.
That's the first sentence of Thomas Paine's historic pamphlet "An American Crisis", which was used to inspire the American colonists during the Revolutionary war.
But they apply in the present day to Chiawana head coach Steve Graff, who according to unconfirmed reports, will have to play the rest of the season without 4A all-state running back Jordan Downing.
Calls to Graff today went unreturned. That could be because he's ignoring his phone, as I might if I'd just lost the best player in the entire CBBN and unquestioned leader of the fifth-ranked Riverhawks team.
Downing wasn't just the best offensive player in the league. He was also the best defensive player in the league. As difficult as it will be to replace him at running back, the real question is who will step in at middle linebacker?
There's a reason Chiawana is 6-0, and it's not just because of Downing. There are plenty of players willing to step up and do the job. Terro Bell is the likely replacement at running back, and he's done a fine job late in games after Downing rolls up his standard 200 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
But Bell hasn't had the chance to run against a first-team defense jazzed up from the opening bell, and I'm not sure he can run effectively between the tackles. This will undoubtedly put more pressure on sophomore quarterback Joey Zamora, who may have to throw the ball a little more than he's been used to in order to keep the defense from loading up on Bell.
The real concern is on defense, where Downing was a four-year starter and routinely blew up plays with an uncanny combination of strength, speed and anticipation. Outside linebackers Grady Graff and Alex Weber — both sophomores — have learned well under his example. My guess is one of them moves to the middle and either Caleb Huisingh or Mikele Nunamaker works the outside.
I'll know more tomorrow when I head out to Riverhawks practice.
For sure, Graff is in for some challenging times these next few games — that is if Downing is in fact out for the year. But people have been known to rise to the challenge, especially under Graff.
Remember, the American colonists were up against it, too. We all know how that turned out.