Sept. 13th is a date that Nation Ford senior Ben Tuipulotu has had marked on his calendar for a while. He may soon have to circle an earlier date.
After tearing his ACL and suffering a partial tear of his meniscus in the Falcons’ playoff game last November against Dorman, the senior has looked forward to playing again. Tuipulotu waited until Dec. 13 to have surgery to repair his knee. Under a strict, nine-month recovery timetable set by his surgeon, Tuipulotu is scheduled to make his comeback against York Sept. 8. That would be five days before the official nine-month mark.
“My physical therapist thought I would be ready for this week for sure,” he said. “But my doctor has a strict policy. It feels good. I have been running routes. I feel ready to play.”
Tuipulotu will be used on both offense and defense for the Falcons this year at receiver and defensive back and missed both the Irmo and South Pointe games to start the season. Fortunately for Nation Ford, the team’s bye week is Sept. 1, so he shouldn’t miss any games after that point. Not having Tuipulotu in the lineup has not gone unnoticed as Nation Ford started this season 0-2.
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“He is way ahead of his progression,” said head coach Michael Allen.
“When he comes back he is going to be in shape and ready to go physically. He has been involved in practice. We just limit the amount of contact he has. I knew he would fight tooth and nail to get back. That is just who he is and we are looking forward to him getting back.”
Tuipulotu is 6’4” and 215 pounds, but said not being able to move around as well after the surgery caused him to put on some weight during his recovery.
“I was up to 230,” he said. “It is not a lot of good weight. I weighed (in) yesterday and I am more of where I want to be.”
The road back for Tuipulotu was harder than he had anticipated, especially at first. Part of the process included months of physical therapy.
“I was expecting it to be a hard trial going into surgery,” he said. “But it was way worse than I expected. I was stuck on the bed. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t roll over. It was something I wasn’t expecting.”
Because Tuipulotu had a partially torn meniscus, it delayed recovery process due to the fact he couldn’t put a lot of weight on it. He missed all of the basketball and soccer seasons during his junior year.
Once he was able to put more and more pressure on his knee and legs, he started pushing himself to make sure he would be back sooner than later.
“I love this football team and I love Coach Allen,” he said. “It is so much fun. I pushed the limit in my recovery process.”
Because of the positions he plays, Tuipulotu has to do a lot of cutting and make sudden stps and starts while running or covering pass routes. Those motions are particularly rough on a player’s knees. He has gotten back into the swing by going full force at practice, except for tackling. Tuipulotu said because he has been running routes, he won’t be as apprehensive about it when he actually does step on the field.
Unlike some players coming off knee injuries, Tuipulotu has been practicing and moving freely without a brace or any type of protection over his knee.
“I feel like if I did wear a brace I would be more scared with it,” he said. “It feels good without the brace. I don’t want to wear a big medal one. I don’t want to worry about that too.”
Looking back, Tuipulotu said he feels like it was smart to push himself through the rehab process.
“It is better to go into the game and not have had just two practices or something like that.”
Tuipulotu has already verbally committed to to play college football at Bingham Young University and will be headed there after completing his two-year Mormon mission trip. He said he is looking forward to playing his final season with the Falcons.
“I saw the South Pointe-Northwestern score and I think we have a really good chance to take the Region title this year,” he said. “That is really important to me.”
Mac Banks: email@example.com, @MacBanksFM
Stallions run over Falcons
Another week of football and another dominant performance from the South Pointe Stallions as they stormed past the Nation Ford Falcons 53-0.
South Pointe was led by senior quarterback Derion Kendrick.
“I love watching him play,” said Stallions’ head coach Strait Herron. “It gives us a whole different dynamic.”
Nation Ford (0-2) knew facing the state’s No. 1 ranked 4A team, South Pointe (2-0), was not going to be an easy task, especially after they handled their rivals, Northwestern, the opening week of the season.
“They are a good football team,” said Nation Ford head coach Michael Allen. “We made a lot of mistakes. The quarterback position is holding us back at the moment.”
Both teams turned the ball over on their opening drives, with Nation Ford giving the ball back to the Stallions in good field position after an interception from Falcons’ starter Tayler Teti. Penalties stalled South Pointe on their drive as they got hit with three consecutive penalties, forcing them to turn to senior kicker B.T. Potter for a 45-yard field goal.
The Stallions’ really stepped on the gas on their next drive as Kendrick hit Steve Gilmore just three plays into the drive resulting in a 42-yard touchdown to put South Pointe up 10-0.