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Boots takes injury in stride

Phoenix senior running back is determined to rebound from season-ending knee injury

PHOENIX ' Rushing for an average of 233 yards per game, Max Boots felt like the sky was the limit for his senior season on the Phoenix High football team.

Then again, who could blame him? In the best shape of his life, Boots had already helped the Pirates notch a No. 6 ranking and perfect 3-0 record heading into last Friday's key Skyline Conference clash at North Valley.

But it's what ' or rather who ' the Pirates carried out of that meeting that has sent shock waves throughout Phoenix and the rest of the conference.

On Boots' 13th carry of the first quarter last Friday, the 6-foot, 195-pound tailback suffered a season-ending injury involving the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee.

— It was just bad timing, really, Phoenix head coach Gordy Crowston says of the fateful play. Two (North Valley) guys hit him and the knee got caught up when the first guy hit him and then the second guy just came in and ... it was just bad timing.

Bad timing because Boots had already racked up 53 yards rushing and was on pace for another big night.

Bad timing because Crowston's plan was to continue featuring Boots through October and then filter in his understudies for greater balance come state-playoff time.

Bad timing because both Boots and Crowston were bent on showing college recruiters that the three-year starter could play tailback at the next level instead of applying him at safety.

Bad timing in so many ways, both on and off the playing field.

He's just one of those kids that everybody likes, Crowston says of Boots, who is also the student body president at Phoenix. For this to happen to him is just heartbreaking.

It's just really mind-numbing more than anything else to think that this has happened, the coach adds, you could really see the breakout year coming. It's just crushing. He's taking it a heckuva lot better than most of us, truthfully.

Boots had an MRI on his knee Tuesday and matter-of-factly says he anticipates surgery in four or five weeks followed by a lengthy rehabilitation.

The way I see it, what happened happened, says the 17-year-old. There's no sense getting down on yourself or anything. Now I've just got to concentrate on building my leg back up.

And try not to get caught up in what might have been.

I was really excited about this year, he says. The season was going great, the team was doing great, my hopes were really high and then this happened. But that's the way things go. There's not much you can do about it. It could've happened to anyone at any time.

Boots says he's confident the Pirates will continue to have success despite his absence.

I think they're going to do fine, he says. After I went out against North Valley, they still played a very good game (in a 13-8 loss). We're just going to bump a few guys over and make some adjustments, but we have the depth to make up for it all.

Seniors Joe Six and Mike Kennedy and junior Tyler Hammon will be thrust into the spotlight at tailback tonight when the Pirates play host to Hidden Valley on homecoming night.

It's an opportunity for some of these guys to step up, says Crowston. At 233 yards per game, it's going to take more than one guy to fill that void, and I think the guys understand that. Hopefully we'll be able to step up and get the job done.

The biggest obstacle in overcoming his injury, says Boots, will be watching helplessly from the sidelines.

Time will determine the rest.

I think I'm going to have to wait until after surgery to see what direction I'll take, says Boots, who wants to major in communications. I'm definitely going to try to pursue sports again, but if it's just not there, I'll concentrate more on my academics.

Boots had received interest from several colleges prior to his injury, including Boise State, and at least one (Linfield) has already called to let him know they're still interested.

Crowston sees his go-to player coming out of this situation stronger than ever.

Max has determination and a great work ethic, says the coach. If he decides to come back from this to play football, then he's the kid who will definitely get this done. There's no doubt in my mind.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail