The Edgar Wildcats have been turning heads all season long.
13-0. 7 shutouts. 7 games in which they've scored 50 or more points, and a 3rd straight trip to Madison, where they hope to repeat as Division 6 champs.
Senior Grant Bargender has been there every step of the way, but not in the capacity he imagined.
"Ii dislocated two vertebrae in my neck. My C5 and C6 vertebrae. One of the vertebrae was actually fractured, also," Bargender said.
Back in February, Grant and a friend were playing around. His friend landed on top of him, causing the injury to his neck.
"Everything shot numb through my body. Toes, fingers. I couldn't feel anything. About 5 minutes later feeling started coming back, and I was like 'ok, i'll be ok, i can move everything.' Then we called the athletic trainer from Sport & Spine. He came up, they called the ambulance and they took me in.
He endured 5 hours of surgery, 3 days in the hospital and missed a week of school. His senior football season over before his junior year in school was even done.
"I was right there with him," said friend and fellow senior Jake Frane, who witnessed the accident. "And just thinking I was in shock. I don't know." Is it hard to put into words? "Yeah, very hard."
"If it was me, I'd have been heartbroken," senior quarterback Dalton Lehman said. "But he kept with it, he tried his best to keep his attitude up. Just made the team closer and stronger."
Grant was projected to be the starting center this season. In week 8, senior night, he was able to dress out with the team. The original thought was he'd get to kick an extra point and register a statistic, but the doctor overturned that call.
"My mom talked to the doctor. He said, there's no way on god's green earth he'd ever let me play. In case something did happen."
He rarely, if ever, misses a practice or film session. He helps the younger linemen and the longsnappers, and serves as an athletic trainer, a career Grant now wants to pursue.
"Just going through therapy myself, realizing this is kind of a nice way i can help give back and help others who suffer."
"We were part of this ankle brace study with the University of Wisconsin this year," added head coach Jerry Sinz. "So we appointed him the guy who takes care of that. If we need new braces, he orders them. He contacts those guys and lets them know who's wearing them and if we have any sprains, he reports that."
He says he may dress out for Thursday's championship game, wearing his jersey and pads one final time. If not, he's OK with that.
"I realized that the bigger picture. Family, life, God, schoolwork, everything overshadowed sports."
Edgar will face St. Mary's Springs at 1:00 on Thursday afternoon.
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