This time last year, Meadow Bridge High football player Ayden Redden wasn't participating in his favorite sport.
Instead, he was off the gridiron while recovering from injuries suffered in a four-wheeler accident that robbed him of most of his sophomore football season and half of his basketball season.
Tonight, Redden and the Class A No. 12 Wildcats (2-1) will host East Hardy (1-2) at 7:30 p.m. at Frank Arritt Stadium, and Redden's glad he's been able to be back in the lineup with his teammates this year as he continues to regain his rhythm.
"It (missing most of last year) was a struggle; it was hard," said Redden, a junior wide receiver/safety who also played a little quarterback for the 'Cats in their win over Midland Trail two weeks ago.
"I'm back now, so that's all that matters."
"I don't remember much," said Redden, who broke four vertebrae in his lower back during the accident. "I just remember I was riding with some of my friends, then I lost control and went over a hill. I blacked out and when I woke up I was in an ambulance."
He was sidelined for all but Meadow Bridge's first two games last fall. "I didn't want nothing else but to get back out there and play with them. But you gotta do what you gotta do."
The 5-foot-8, 142-pound Redden was cleared medically to return for basketball season in January. Now limited to lifting smaller weights, he's been getting back into the swing of things so far this year on the football field. He admits he occasionally thinks about his injury and how it might affect him on the field. "There's always a thought in the back of my head, but you can't worry about it. You've got to do what you do."
Since football is his "100 percent favorite sport," Redden is happy to see the Wildcats playing well this year. "I think it's looking really good; this is one of the best teams we've had in a couple years, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the season."
Understandably, Redden says he hasn't been back out four-wheeling. Yet. "Yeah, not a doubt about it," he said when asked if he will do it again.
Meadow Bridge coach Dwayne Reichard remembers Redden calling him from the hospital one night after his accident. "The world kind of came around down on him there. He was heartbroken, you could tell by talking to him on the phone."
As his recovery continued, Redden attended a pep rally later in the 2018 football season, which was a boost for both him and his classmates, said Reichard.
"He's been on the road to recovery," said Reichard, who realizes Redden has experienced some hesitancy as he has returned to sports. "He's really starting to kind of get back to his old self," said Reichard. "He's a vocal kid every day at practice. He's taken on that much of a leadership role.
"It was a scary moment for all of us. To have him come back the way he has and be a big part of it (has been a blessing)."
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In addition to the Meadow Bridge-East Hardy matchup tonight, Midland Trail (3-1) will visit Summers County (1-3), and Oak Hill (0-4) will seek its first win when it hosts Lincoln County (2-2).
The Patriots remained among the state's top Class A football teams in this week's WVSSAC Class A ratings.
Trail, coming off a 32-7 vanquishing of host Richwood last week, is tied with Doddridge County and Tolsia for the No. 3 spot in the small schools division. Locally, Greenbrier West (3-1) is No. 10 and Meadow Bridge is No. 12.
Leading the pack in single-A is Pendleton County (3-0).
Atop the Class AAA ranks is Cabell Midland (4-0), while Riverside (2-1) is No. 9.
In Class AA, Fairmont Senior (4-0) leads the way.
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In last Friday's Richwood win, Robert Ruffner rushed 12 times for 111 yards and a touchdown for the Patriots. Chris Vines tacked on 41 yards and two TDs on seven carries, and Colton Yoder gained 64 yards on 18 tries.
Vines was also 4-of-12 for 55 yards through the air. Among the completions was a 15-yard touchdown toss to Aaron Sisler. Jonathon Stark caught two passes for 35 yards.
On the defensive side of the ball, Ruffner was also a standout, collecting eight tackles, assisting on three other stops and registering a safety. Teammate Aden Isaacs logged six solo tackles and three assists, and Griffin Boggs had five solo stops. Trevor Maichle was in on five tackles and picked off a Richwood pass.
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West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced his office will feature the Midland Trail-Summers County gridiron matchup Friday as an Opioid Abuse Prevention Game of the Week.
Throughout each week, the initiative engages with student athletes, coaches, school officials and communities across West Virginia. Representatives from the attorney general’s office inform the respective coaches as to the dangers of opioid use and provide educational material for display and distribution in the schools to foster more discussion of the issue.
The week culminates with the office staffing an information booth at each of the select sporting events to distribute opioid abuse awareness materials.
The initiative, now in its fourth year, is part of a broader partnership to tackle opioid use in high school athletics. It involves the attorney general’s office, the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission and the West Virginia Board of Medicine.
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