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Gwinnett football seniors have year cut by injuries

Brookwood senior Josh Brown (28), expected to be the Broncos’ featured tailback, suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener at the Georgia Dome. He maintains a presence as team captain and motivator, cheering on his replacement at tailback, his younger brother Jesse. Here, he is photographed taking the field during a recent game alongside Walton Taylor (37) and Joey McLane (12). (Photo: Craig Cappy)

Brookwood senior Josh Brown (28), expected to be the Broncos’ featured tailback, suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener at the Georgia Dome. He maintains a presence as team captain and motivator, cheering on his replacement at tailback, his younger brother Jesse. Here, he is photographed taking the field during a recent game alongside Walton Taylor (37) and Joey McLane (12). (Photo: Craig Cappy)

SENIORS LOST

The following seniors had their seasons cut short due to injury this year.

QB Jaquan Morris, Berkmar

RB Josh Brown, Brookwood

OL/DL Miguel Herrera, Brookwood

LB Abe Parry, Brookwood

LB Deion King, Buford

LB Austin Simpson, Buford

DE C.J. Brady, Dacula

LB Markael Maxwell, Duluth

TE Jack McLaughlin, GAC

OL/DL Khalil Lowry, GAC

DE Cody Butcher, North Gwinnett

LB Jacob McCoy, North Gwinnett

S Greyson Whitton, North Gwinnett

DB Devin Hale, Peachtree Ridge

OL Antavious Cain, Shiloh

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Josh Brown (28) encourages teammate Nate Salomon (25) during pregame warmups at a recent game. (Photo: Craig Cappy)

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Peachtree Ridge senior Devin Hale (4) has a laugh with his teammates on the sideline during the game last week against Norcross. Hale is out with a recurring shoulder injury. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

For the last two years, Josh Brown shared the running back duties at Brookwood.

Now a senior, this was was supposed to be the football player’s breakout year.

He was going to continue the long run of successful Brookwood running backs like Jamaal Cole, Nick Tompkins and Kenny Miles, who preceded him.

Brown’s senior year didn’t even last one half.

“It was Right King 4 Zone,” said Brown, who recalled the play that altered his senior year. “I was running right and bent it back in. My knee went in and popped.”

The worst possible scenario for a senior football player happened to Brown. Worse than missing the playoffs or having a losing record, Brown’s senior year was cut short due to injury. He’s one of a handful of Gwinnett’s senior football players who had their season cut short.

“It breaks your heart when a kid goes down with a season-ending injury,” Dacula head coach Tommy Jones said.

Berkmar quarterback Jaquan Morris can relate to Brown. The senior was one of the county’s top returning passers. He was poised to have a big year and had the Patriots off to the first 3-0 start since 2007. Then in the Region 8-AAAAAA opener against Central Gwinnett everything changed.

“Of course, I remember like it was yesterday,” Morris said. “It was Sept. 20. I got hit late and came down on it wrong. I saw the hit and I don’t think it was intentional. I just fell the wrong way.”

Morris went to the sideline where he received medical attention. The first analysis gave him hope he could still play.

“All I heard the trainer say is it’s dislocated,” Morris said. “I was thinking lets pop it back in, rest for a little bit and then go play. But I knew something was wrong the way it looked.”

It turned out to be much worse. A broken fibula in Morris’ ankle meant just three and half games into his senior season it was over.

“I kind of knew to some degree I was out for a couple of games,” Morris said. “When the doctor told me I was out, I was depressed. I try to live by a quote someone told me. A minor setback prepares you for a major comeback. I have that on my mind.”

Brown’s injury came in the first half of the season opener in the Corky Kell Classic at the Georgia Dome. He hurt his knee with just 30 seconds left in the half, but never imagined it was the last play of his high school career.

“I was thinking it’s probably just a knee sprain,” Brown said. “I thought why hurt myself more since it’s the first game and I sat out the second half. It turned out when I went to the doctor I tore my ACL.”

That meant Brown’s dream of becoming the Broncos’ next 1,000-yard rusher, playing rival Parkview or scoring another touchdown in the maroon and gold was over.

“To be honest is sucked,” Brown said. “Once I found out, I had the option to play on it or surgery. I chose surgery because I would be a half step slower and that would hurt the team. Now I pour as much as I can into helping my little brother.”

Brown’s younger brother, Jesse, has taken over the starting running back position and has flourished. Despite their injuries, Brown and Morris are still a regular fixture of the their teams.

Brown still attends 6:55 a.m. film sessions with his brother at the fieldhouse. He’s still goes to practice and helps the running backs and defensive backs.

“Anything I can help him with. I try to help him with things like step this way or block this way,” Brown said. “I try to be involved anyway I can.”

Morris still attends practices to help Jadarrius Warner with the plays and is on the sidelines at games to answer any questions.

“I still know the offense and what the coaches want,” Morris said.

Brown and Morris were selected as team captains and despite their injuries still fulfill that role by helping the team in anyway they can. They still go out for the coin toss before each game and play a key role during practice and games. The toughest part is standing on the sidelines of games, wishing they were in there playing.

“I know if I got just one play it would help a little bit,” said Brown, who had never missed a game since fourth grade. “It would change things. That’s what I think sometimes.”

Brown and Morris’ seasons were ended by injuries during a game. Sometimes it’s just a freak accident that ends a player’s season. Duluth’s Markael Maxwell is the strongest player on the team. He was going through a non-contact drill prior to the season and he fractured his shin on the bottom of a pop-up dummy and hasn’t been able to play a down this season.

Sometimes an injury will strike twice like for Brookwood offensive lineman Miguel Herrera. The senior injured his meniscus in the season opener, came back and tore his ACL.

“I understand you don’t get high school back. You only get four years,” Morris said.

Brown and Morris hope to continue their football careers in college. They vow to not make their injury-plagued senior season their last. Brown, who has a 3.89 GPA, has scholarship offers from Navy, Army and Harvard.

Morris doesn’t have any scholarship offers, but has received interest from several colleges.

“Don’t take anything for granted,” Brown said. “When adversity calls your name, there’s nothing to mess around about. It’s a done deal.”

It’s a life lesson several seniors have had to learn this year.

“The lesson I learned is have faith and be patient,” Morris said. “These injuries take time.”