Varsity Football

Oates makes emphatic return from broken back

Jacob Oates seemed wired. Calm and quiet by nature, the Flinthills senior running back's demeanor had changed in the locker room before Friday's game against West Elk. His coaches had to tell him to calm down, but he couldn't help it. Oates hadn't played football in a year. He wasn't even supposed to play this season.

Oates defied the odds and rushed for 345 yards and five touchdowns in a 40-28 victory, approximately one year after breaking his back. His performance inspired teammates, coaches and family.

"I don't know if they knew I had it in me," Oates said. "My dad was in the stands and after every touchdown I could see him smiling. It was a good feeling."

Oates suffered two fractures in his lower vertebrate in a weight lifting accident. He said he was performing dead lifts and the weight was too much for his back to hold. Doctors told him that he wouldn't be able to play football this season, but on a doctor's visit two days before practice started for the Mustangs, the physician saw enough improvement to clear Oates for full contact.

"There's still a little pain, but there's nothing that will keep me out of this," Oates said." It's my senior year. I don't want to give up now. I want to give it all for my senior year."

Flinthills coach Shane Thornton moved Oates from his position at fullback to starting tailback because of an injury to the starter. Oates saw the start as an opportunity and made the most out of each of his 29 carries.

"I just thought this was my chance to show everyone that I missed last year but I can still come out and do something," Oates said.

Oates broke a 60-yard run on the second play of the game and didn't look back.

"About four weeks ago he didn't think he was ever going to play (another) down of football in his life," Thornton said. "It doesn't matter how hot it is or how windy it is he's going to come to practice with a smile on his face because he's able to put pads on."

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