Back in the Groove
Excuse Scranton Prep head football coach Nick Donato for being wary every time he sees safety/wide receiver Kevin Bannon of Clarks Summit blocking downfield.
It is not because Bannon can't do the job, but because the senior has been injured doing so each of the last two years.
This year, it happened in the first quarter of the Cavaliers' opener against Wyoming Area, almost before Bannon had stopped looking forward to his senior season.
After missing the remainder of the game against the Warriors, Bannon sat out the next two games, leaving him ready for week four against Scranton.
It only took a few minutes for the senior to show he was ready to return.
"I had a high ankle sprain," Bannon said. "But I came back, scored a touchdown against Scranton and picked off a pass against North Pocono. It feels good to get back to where I belong."
There were some anxious moments after the injury occurred, when Bannon was uncertain if his senior football season was over before it kicked into full gear.
"I was very upset. The doctor told me to go for x-rays," Bannon said. "They thought it might have been broken. That would have been six to eight weeks, but with it being only a sprain, I just missed the first three weeks."
A longer time out could have been devastating for both Bannon, who is the lone returning starter in the secondary and who makes the coverage calls for the defense, and the Cavaliers, who are poised to make a strong run at the Lackawanna Football Conference Division I title after winning the Eastern Conference Class AAA crown last year.
"It was a big loss," Donato said. "Kevin does so much for us, not only athletically, but with his head. He knows where everybody has to be. He has so much experience, starting all of last year."
Eager to get his season underway against Wyoming Area, Bannon was chagrined to have his football campaign compromised so early in the season. If he had broken something, it could have affected the senior in basketball, where he played forward and center at times, and baseball, where he roamed the Cavaliers outfield.
"I was blocking downfield on a pass play, and the guy who caught the ball was tackled and rolled into me," Bannon said. "The same thing happened to me last year."
The cruel part of the injury, aside from it happening a second straight year on a hustle play, was that Bannon had no way to protect himself from the hit because he was blocking and not looking at the ball.
A senior's dreams of a great season nearly went up in smoke, and Donato could only hope for the best.
"It was hard to see it happen again," Donato said. "It's a freaky thing; he got rolled up by one of our kids. We were thankful to see it was only a sprain and not a break."
So was Bannon, to say the least.
"It was good news, bad news," Bannon said. "The bad news, it hurt; the good news, it could have been worse."
The senior desperately wanted to play in Week 3 when the Cavaliers went to Throop to play Mid Valley and won, but Donato wanted to give Bannon a little more rest by not using him.
"We were surprised to see him come back so quickly," Donato said. "He wanted to play against Mid Valley."
So Bannon's return came in Week 4 on Sept. 21 against Scranton, and in his first two games back, the senior displayed the skills that make him so valuable on both sides of the ball for the Cavaliers.
"He took a screen 50 yards for a touchdown," Donato said. "He made a pick [an interception] at the end of the first half ]against North Pocono in week five], and we were able to score before halftime. He made an immediate impact."
Bannon is used to having an impact on just about anything he puts his mind to. In addition to his versatility on the basketball court and baseball diamond, he is also the student body president at Scranton Prep, eager to leave his stamp outside the world of sports.
"We set up dances at the school, and we have three major dances," Bannon said. "We also have to decide which charitable funds to go to.
"It's a lot of fun, and it's a nice thing to do."
While it may not be a fun to do, Bannon will continue to approach downfield blocking the way he always has - do it correctly, and do it well.
So far he hasn't asked out of that responsibility, and all parties agree that Bannon will keep on blocking.
"My coach wouldn't be too crazy about that," Bannon said with a laugh about getting out of downfield blocking.
He will do anything to make an impact on a game.