ROCK HILL — There were days when Corey Wessinger's head hurt so badly he couldn't go to school.
But the Rock Hill High quarterback said there was no way he was going to let that pain be career-ending.
"I did everything I could to get back," Wessinger said of coming back from a concussion earlier this year, "because this is what I've been doing for 12 years now, and I didn't want it to go to waste."
Wessinger came back to the lineup last week after missing the previous five, and has given the Bearcats a flicker of playoff hope heading into Friday's finale against Northwestern.
A win, and the Bearcats (5-5, 1-3 in Region 3-AAAA) can sneak into fourth place and the final playoff slot. A loss, and an up-and-down season ends.
Getting their quarterback back -- the passing half of the dual threat they envisioned this year -- can only help. The Bearcats won their first three games with Wessinger at the helm. After he left the South Pointe game with a concussion (his third), they lost four of their next five.
Last week's win over a depleted Clover team was one thing, but this week is the one he came back for.
That took medical guidance and a little bit of faith from worried parents and coaches. At the time of his injury, coach Joe Montgomery thought he'd be without Wessinger the rest of the season, and Wessinger said his mom thought likewise. But after consulting with doctors, he was cleared two weeks ago, and he didn't hesitate coming back. The concern stemmed from the fact he suffered another concussion during a practice his junior season, and then again against South Pointe last year. Given the nationwide concern about multiple concussions, there was a genuine thought he was finished.
"Mom understands the doctors know what they're talking about," Wessinger said. "They're not going to put me out there if it's not safe. I'll admit, after it first happened, I started thinking about other ways to get to college, started thinking about not being able to play again.
"But if I was able to come back, I was going to."
The Bearcats struggled without him for multiple reasons. Montgomery noted that the loss of backup Kenterius Hinton (to a suspension following the fight with South Pointe) left them playing JVs for a pair of games. But Wessinger's absence also robbed them of their only seasoned passer.
"Obviously his experience is the biggest thing he brings to the table," Montgomery said. "Corey being back is a big help because of his understanding of the offense. He knows where everybody's supposed to be in the passing game. He's been in the system for three years, so he knows where to put the ball and when.
"He's somebody we have a lot of time invested in, from all those spring practices and passing leagues and three years here. When you lose that, it's obviously going to hurt your football team."
Trying to scramble into the back door wasn't what the Bearcats envisioned this year. But at this point, it's what they have, and with Wessinger back, they at least have a chance. That makes the team's plight mirror Wessinger's, since he had to shove aside long-term concerns about multiple concussions to play the game he loves.
"Every day, everybody thinks about what might have been, but you've got to focus on the now," Wessinger said. "There's a different destiny for every action. I could go outside and step on a bug, and that bug could be the key to curing cancer. But you can't worry about that.
"We've got to win to make the playoffs, and that's what our focus is on, a chance to play a couple more games."
Darin Gantt 803-326-4312