Losing is not an option at Cromwell
John Hedin couldn't wait to get back out on the football field. Even more, he couldn't wait to get back on the Metrodome's football field. Now that the Cromwell junior has accomplished both goals, there's one more thing to shoot for: a state titl...
John Hedin couldn't wait to get back out on the football field. Even more, he couldn't wait to get back on the Metrodome's football field.
Now that the Cromwell junior has accomplished both goals, there's one more thing to shoot for: a state title.
Hedin overcame an anterior cruciate ligament tear in his left knee to help the Cardinals earn a berth in the Minnesota Nine-Man high school state tournament semifinals and return to the Metrodome. Cromwell (12-0) faces Wheaton (11-0) at 8 a.m. Friday, with the winner headed to the Prep Bowl the following week.
But there was a time when Hedin was unsure if he would make it back in time for the football season. He tore the ligament during a basketball game last January and couldn't practice with the football team when two-a-days began in August.
Hedin, a running back and defensive back, had surgery at Miller Dwan Medical Center and attended physical therapy twice a week to strengthen the knee, but that type of injury often takes between nine months and a year to fully heal. Time was of the essence to return for the fall season.
"Sometimes when I talked to my physical therapist, he said it would be hard to get back in time,'' Hedin said Wednesday. "But I was determined."
After missing three games to start the season, Hedin finally was cleared to play in week four.
"It was pretty frustrating, but it would have been more frustrating if we had been losing," Hedin said.
Losing is not an option at Cromwell. The Cardinals' only defeat the past two years came in last year's Prep Bowl against Stephen-Argyle (11-0), which is on a state-record win streak and plays in the other semifinal this morning against Underwood (11-1). Cromwell has won three state titles of its own (1995, '96 and '98) and has been runner-up four times during its 12 overall appearances.
Hedin's cousins, Dean and Dan Nyberg, played on those state title teams.
"When we were little kids, we always watched his cousins [play at the Dome],'' junior quarterback Cody Hendrickson said. "It got us [motivated] to get down there."
The Cardinals nearly needed a miracle to get back inside. They rallied from 14 points down in the final 6 minutes to edge Mountain Iron-Buhl 22-20 in a quarterfinal game Friday in Virginia. Hendrickson led them back with a long touchdown pass to Levi Sheff and then scored the winning touchdown and 2-point conversion himself.
But Hedin's return has made Hendrickson's job easier.
"It takes a lot of pressure off Cody to have me out there,'' Hedin said.
Hedin has gained 702 yards on 75 attempts (9.36 yards per carry) and scored 13 touchdowns since returning. He's added 407 yards on 17 receptions (23.9 yards per catch) and four more TDs.
"We have a bunch of weapons, and he adds another option," Hendrickson said.
Hedin's versatility is tough to defend, especially when the opponent only has nine players. He's difficult to stop in open space, and usually makes big plays defensively as well.
"When he came back, he's such a great athlete that he added flexibility to what we do," Cromwell coach Jeff Gronner said. "He's our best running back, our best receiver and our best cover d-back."
And beside a few twinges of pain, Hedin says his knee is as good as ever.
"I've been confident,'' he said. "You shouldn't have to run scared. You'll get hurt if you run scared."
So far, only the opponents have been running scared of Hedin and Cromwell.
RICK WEEGMAN covers prep football for the News Tribune. He can be reached at (218) 723-5302, (800) 456-8181 or e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org