SPRINGDALE -- Kyle Freeman is no stranger to adversity.
Underneath the jacket sleeve on his right arm is a hard blue cast that protects a broken arm he suffered not once, but twice, since last spring.
Class 4A Playoffs
Jonesboro Westside at Shiloh Christian
• Kickoff: 7 p.m.
• Records: Westside 5-5; Shiloh Christian 7-3
• On The Air: www.shilohchristianfootball.com.
• Between The Lines: Both teams come into the game off blowout losses. Westside was blanked 41-0 by Pocahontas last week, and Shiloh Christian was rolled by Pea Ridge 32-6. The previous week Westside lost to Gosnell 34-7. … Shiloh Christian has struggled with key injuries this season, losing two more players in last week’s game. Senior WR Adler Goode (collar bone) is out for the rest of the season. Senior RB Kyle Freeman (knee) is a game-time decision. … Shiloh QB Connor Reece leads the offense. Reece, a sophomore, is 124-of-225 for 1,861 yards and 19 TDs. … If Freeman is out, the rushing load will shift to sophomore John-Marcus Carruthers, who has rushed for 486 yards on 76 carries (6.4 yards per carry) and 4 TDs rushing. … Shiloh senior WR Matthew Solomon has 39 catches for 587 yards (15.1 yards per catch) and 10 TDs.
• Players To Watch: Westside — QB Kenny McFadden (So., 5-10, 155), RB Thomas Craft (Sr., 5-8, 175), LB Jacob Meeks (So., 5-10, 181). Shiloh Christian — LB Austin Connolly (Sr., 6-0, 2-5), S Doug Burke (Sr., 6-0, 180), WR Brennan Fulgham (So., 5-9, 170), LB Lakin Hall (Jr., 6-1, 195).
• Hooten’s Rankings: Westside is No. 31 in Class 4A. Shiloh Christian is No. 15.
• Hooten’s Line: Shiloh Christian by 24.
• Our Take: Shiloh Christian 42, Westside 14.
— CHIP SOUZA @nwaChip
He walks with a noticeable limp, favoring a knee injury that could sideline him for the remainder of the season.
And all this after he'd already sat out an entire calendar athletic school year after transferring from Fayetteville to Shiloh Christian before his junior year.
Yet somehow, he maintains a positive outlook.
"It's been frustrating because I've only had like three games were I could really just go all-out," he said. "So that's been frustrating, but it's also humbling. It puts your in your place. It proves you're not invincible."
Freeman (5-foot-9, 178 pounds) knew he'd have to miss last season under Arkansas Activities Association public-to-private school transfer rules. He accepted that without question.
After serving as a backup running back on Fayetteville's 2012 state championship team as a sophomore, Freeman opted to leave his hometown school, where he'd always attended, and moved up the road a few miles to Shiloh Christian. He made the move knowing he'd be ineligible for athletic competition for a full calendar year.
"I was OK with that," he said. "I didn't transfer schools for any athletic reasons. My motives were in the right place. I knew what the sacrifices were.
"I'd make that choice again."
Just a few months after earning a state championship ring, Freeman was relegated to scout team duties while he served his ineligibility stint.
He was somewhat used to that after being a sophomore team and junior varsity running back at Fayetteville the year before. He practiced against the Purple'Dogs' varsity daily, getting hammered by former Bulldog stars Brooks Ellis and Alex Brignoni.
"I know all about how hard Brooks Ellis can hit," he said.
When last spring rolled around, Freeman was ready to make his mark for the Saints. Blessed with great speed, he spent the offseason lifting weights and gained 40 pounds, going from 135 pounds to 175, while keeping his speed.
He broke his arm two days into Shiloh Christian's spring practices.
"We ran an isolation play and two linebackers came at me, so I lowered my shoulder and ran them over, but in the process I took a face mask to my arm and it broke my lower right arm," Freeman said. "I knew something was wrong with it immediately."
But they did not think the arm was broken, he said, so he tried to play through it. He was fitted with a removable cast and finished the spring, although with no contact.
As the spring moved into the summer, he continued to have pain with the arm, keeping him up at night. He finally had the arm x-rayed and the broken bone was revealed, although by that time the break was almost healed.
He missed the 7-on-7 tournaments and team camp to let the arm continue to heal. When the Saints returned to summer camp to prepare for its opening scrimmage against Springdale High, Freeman felt like the arm was fully healed.
The Saints were working on a blocking drill when he felt the familiar pain. The arm was re-broken.
"I knew something happened again as soon as I hit it," he said. "It needed about four more weeks for it to have healed completely."
In order for the arm to heal completely, he would require surgery. Instead, Freeman opted to cast the arm and put off the impending surgery until after the season ends.
It may already be over for him.
Last Friday night, on a running play, Freeman took a helmet to his knee and felt it buckle. He is scheduled to have an MRI later this week, but early in the week he was struggling just to walk.
"We'll see how it goes," he said. "Right now I don't know how I feel about getting it hit."
Despite the injuries, Freeman put together a solid season with 640 yards rushing on 115 carries (5.6 yards per carry) and 10 touchdowns. He was expected to play a key role in the return game this season, but the cast hindered his ability to catch the ball.
"I'm proud of Kyle," Shiloh Christian first-year coach Jeff Conaway said. "There may not be a lot of kids his age to do what he's done, to transfer and sit out an entire year and be a practice player, then he breaks his arm and he's forced to play through that."
The Saints could have as many as five starters on the sideline Friday when they host Jonesboro Westside in a first-round Class 4A state playoff game in Champions Stadium.
In addition to Freeman, the Saints have lost leading receiver Adler Goode (broken collar bone), running back Chander Smith (knee), senior safety Reed Lowe (knee) and junior offensive lineman Coleton Riley to injuries.
"Our injured team would beat a lot of people," Conaway said, only half joking.
Freeman said his impending arm surgery will likely prevent him from a college playing career. He intends on being a pre-med major and become an anesthesiologist.
His younger brother Cole, an eighth-grader, has also transferred to Shiloh Christian.
"This was something that I thought about for about two months before I transferred," Freeman said. "It took me a while to convince my parents this was where I needed to be. I wanted a smaller environment.
"Our team is like a brotherhood. I personally know every player on my team and that will carry over to later in life."
Sports on 11/12/2014
Print Headline: Freeman Stays Positive Despite Adversity