Stephen McDevitt remembers the play like it happened yesterday.
“Fourth quarter, about five minutes to go in the game,” Manheim Township’s senior offensive guard said. “I was pulling around to get the linebacker, and I hit him. But someone fell on the back of my right leg, I got stood up, and I fell backward. My leg snapped.”
In a couple of places. Crack. Just like that. It wasn't a compound fracture. But it wasn't pretty.
It was last Aug. 25, and coach Mark Evans and his Blue Streaks — fresh off a District Three Class 6A championship the year before — were putting the finishing touches on their season-opening 17-10 victory over CD East at Landis Field in Harrisburg.
McDevitt, who had just been named a team captain, was carted off the field that muggy Saturday afternoon. After an ambulance ride, and a restless night that featured a morphine drip to quell the pain, he was in surgery in Hershey early Sunday morning.
The diagnosis: A broken tibia and fibula, and McDevitt had a metal rod and two screws inserted into his tibia — a mere three and a half quarters into the first game of his senior season.
Talk about a sucker-punch.
After paying his dues, putting in a ton of work and working his way up the depth chart, McDevitt was making his first career start that fateful day in Harrisburg.
“I was proud to be starting,” he said. “You never know what’s going to happen, and I certainly never expected anything like that. It was hard to go to the games. It was hard just to watch. I felt like all the hard work I had put in the previous summer was all for nothing.”
McDevitt, relegated to cheerleader duties, spent the next several months on crutches. No practice. No game action. Just rest, rehab and vocal leadership to his teammates.
There are two silver linings in McDevitt’s tale:
First, he had a Rudy-like moment. In Township’s D3-6A quarterfinal-round game at home on Nov. 9 against Central Dauphin, McDevitt got on the field to play defense on literally the very last snap of the game. CD won 27-0, but McDevitt worked his way all the way back to be on the field in a Streaks’ uniform one last time — if only for one play.
Second, McDevitt will get to suit up one last time repping Township on Friday in the 18th annual Tri-County All-Star Football Game at 7 p.m. at Manheim Central. He’ll play guard and D-tackle for the North team against the South squad.
McDevitt has put the injury in the rearview mirror.
“I remember him pulling around on the play, and someone landed on his leg,” said Manheim Township senior wideout Hilton Ridley, who will join McDevitt and classmate Jack Rodenberger on the North team on Friday.
“When he was laying on the ground for a long time, everyone was in shock,” said Ridley, an Indiana (PA) recruit. “I didn’t think it was that serious until they called for the ambulance. It was hard. But it also gave us some extra motivation to be better the rest of the season.”
McDevitt was a vocal leader in the Streaks’ locker room for the rest of the campaign. Ridley called it inspiring, with McDevitt delivering speeches about not taking anything for granted.
“To see how hard he worked all four years of high school, and then to see him go down like that in the first game of his senior year, it was heartbreaking,” Ridley said. “So we went out and played for No. 52 as extra motivation.”
End result: Township shared the Section One title with Warwick and Wilson, and finished up 10-2 overall.
And now, nearly nine months later, McDevitt, healthy and raring to play, will get his shot to participate in a full game, one last time as a prep player.
“This is something out of a movie,” said Annville-Cleona skipper Matt Gingrich, who will coach McDevitt and the North squad on Friday. “He lost a whole year, so I can only imagine his anguish.”
“You can tell he’s a very respected kid, and he’s very respectable,” Gingrich added. “It’s neat that he’s getting this opportunity. When he started to tell me his story, I had to cut him off because I knew it wasn’t going to have a happy ending. So it’s amazing what he’s doing. For him to be able to come out and play in this game is really neat.”
And it will be a moment McDevitt will cherish forever.
“I’m extremely thankful for this game,” said McDevitt, who will play football for Thaddeus Stevens in the fall. “Everything is coming back to me. It’s fun just being able to go out and practice again. I can’t believe this will be my last high school football game. But I’m very thankful that I’ll be able to play.”