John MacNeil/Independent editor
The William E. Hay Wildcats of Stettler will begin the high school football season without one of their key cogs in senior slotback Ricky Armstrong, who broke his right middle finger in a farming accident 10 days ago.
“My starting slotback is going to be out for five to six weeks,” head coach Norbert Baharally said as the Wildcats opened camp last Wednesday, three days after Armstrong’s setback.
“He just about lost his middle finger, I heard, in a farming accident, so he’s out for a while. You get little surprises that you’ve got to try to work around.”
The Wildcats were counting on Armstrong’s veteran presence and had him pegged as a captain. They still hope he can fill such a role later this season.
“Definitely, he’s going to be part of the glue that keeps the team together, for sure,” Baharally said. “He’s a good athlete and a third-year player for us.”
Armstrong, 17, was in good spirits Thursday night as he showed up for the second day of practice, albeit as a spectator with his injured hand in a bandage.
“It’s OK,” he said. “There should be no problem with it. It’s all good now. We go back to the doctor in two weeks. If it’s not healing right in two weeks, I have to get another surgery done.”
As for playing football again, “it should be a minimum of six weeks, and probably about eight weeks,” he said. “I just want to get back and be on the team. It’s my last year and everything.”
Football was among his initial thoughts after his accident on the family farm south of Erskine.
“First thing I said was, ‘Football starts in two days,’ ” Armstrong recalled. “I was not happy about that (timing).”
He vows to try to be more cautious on the farm, though the incident happened in unsuspecting fashion while working on a silage-cutter with his father.
“I just had my hand in a weird position,” he said. “We were trying to change something and my finger got caught and it cut the tip of my finger in half. Well, it was just hanging there and we had to go to (hospital in) Red Deer.”
“The top joint in my middle finger was destroyed. My dad had a cloth and put water on it and I held it together. And then my mom came and we went to the hospital (in Stettler) and got it stitched up until we went to Red Deer the next day and got plastic surgery done on the tendon. They put a pin in and 15 stitches in. I was very lucky. It’ll patch up fine, hopefully.”
The right-handed Armstrong still manages to send text messages with his left hand, and he doesn’t anticipate schoolwork will be problematic while he recuperates.
As for catching a football, he hopes his injured hand is up to the task, after he brings it back into form through therapy.
“We’ll see how it is,” he said. “I think I can work around it, for now.
“I was working out and trying to get ready for the football season before, but now I can’t really. If the doctor says in two weeks, ‘It’s going to be fine and you don’t have to do another surgery,’ I’ll probably start jogging again and working out.”
The six-foot, 180-pound Armstrong is known for his speed, as are the Wildcats.
“We have a lot of speed on offence,” he said. “Even without me for half of it, I think we’re going to do good this year. It’s going to be the year for the Wildcats.”
“I think we have probably the strongest linebackers in the league, by far actually. We have a really good defence — we just need to work on our line. And if our offence comes together this year, we’ll be unstoppable.”
Armstrong is among half-a-dozen Grade 12 players in their third year with the Wildcats.
Much like his buddies, he plans to also play midget hockey this season in Stettler.