ANNA — Anna quarterback Travis Meyer was devastated when he heard the words “ACL tear” from his doctor following an injury to his left knee sustained in a game against New Bremen on Sept. 15. The Rockets were off to a 4-0 start, and Meyer, a senior, was leading the Midwest Athletic Conference in nearly every statistical passing category.
But Meyer’s doctor presented an option to get back on the field soon.
“When the doctor gave me the opportunity to play, I knew as soon as he gave me the opportunity I had to take it,” Meyer said.
So with the help of an ACL brace, a cortisone shot and a few weeks of rehab, Meyer was back under the lights.
Meyer threw for 118 yards in Anna’s 21-19 win over St. Henry last Friday, just three weeks after he tore his anterior cruciate ligament. The win increased Anna’s record to 6-1 and helped the team further grab a hold of the No. 1 spot in Division V, Region 20 playoff points standings.
“I was a little nervous at first,” Meyer said of his return. “After the game got going, I felt a lot more confident, starting with the guys up front (on the offensive line). It was a muddy field, and we were wearing our white jerseys. After coming out of the game, the lineman looked like they came back from war and I looked like I came out of a laundry detergent commercial. I was as white as can be.
“It’s nice that I have a line I can trust. It makes me a lot more confident sitting back there in the pocket.”
Meyer thought he would miss out on the rest of his senior season after sustaining the injury against New Bremen. He said he was especially sad since the injury didn’t happen during the game.
“I was running through the banner before the game,” Meyer said. “I jumped through it and landed on my left leg. My leg buckled, and I tore my ACL. …I didn’t know I had done it and came out for the first play, and it did the exact same thing and buckled. I knew I was done.”
But Meyer’s doctor presented a way back. After the cortisone shot relieved inflammation in the knee, Meyer began working out while wearing a special brace designed for ACL injuries. He said he can run and feels close to normal as a result.
Playing with the injury doesn’t come without risks. Though Meyer said his ACL can’t be damaged further, doctors told him other muscles are under higher strain, which increases the possibility for more injuries.
“I’m a lot more cautious,” Meyer said. “I’ve been having a little trouble with it, but not too much.”
Meyer said the risk is worth the opportunity to finish the season with his fellow seniors, especially given Anna’s success.
“We just want to keep going and keep rolling each week,” Meyer said. “This is special for us, and we just want to keep going into each week with the thought that we’re going to win.”
One of Meyer’s biggest passes against St. Henry came late in the third quarter, when he threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Austin Fogt to give the Rockets a 21-13 lead.
“Before the play started, I knew he was running the post and it was going to be one-on-one, and I knew he would come down with that,” Meyer said. “… Being out for a few weeks definitely put me back. I didn’t play at the top of my game, but as the game went on, I got my swagger back.”
Anna coach Nick Marino said he’s impressed with Meyer’s tenacity and has loved the reaction of the team.
“It’s definitely something the guys, especially the seniors, are all energized by a little bit,” Marino said. “He’s kind of their guy. It’s nice to have him back.”
Though Meyer missed three games, he’s still among the passing leaders in the MAC. He’s thrown for 737 yards and seven touchdowns in four games.
He’s supported by a large cast of playmakers. Fogt and Caleb Kauffman are in the top three in the MAC in receiving yards. Kauffman has 423 receiving yards, and Fogt has 387. Riley Huelskamp has rushed for 746 yards and nine touchdowns, while Aidan Endsley has rushed for 567 yards and nine touchdowns. Both Huelskamp and Endsley rank in the top five in the MAC in rushing yards.
Anna will try to keep rolling though the final weeks of regular season, with a pair of big games looming in Weeks 9 and 10 against Coldwater (5-2) and Minster (3-4).
But first, Anna hosts Parkway (1-6) on Friday. Though the Panthers have lost to every MAC opponent by multiple touchdowns, Marino said they’re better than their record or scores show.
“There are a lot of things they do well, so there’s a lot that we have to get better at against them,” Marino said. “We’ve been working on that this week. We’ve got to stop their run, tackle well and be physical.”
With a playoff berth highly likely for the Rockets, Meyer said the team is focused on finishing the regular season strong and improving before the postseason. That can’t happen, Meyer said, with a loss to Parkway.
“We just want to take it one game at a time,” Meyer said. “We can’t overlook anyone.”
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter.