By David Wolman
In his road to recovery from a torn ACL, Lone Grove senior quarterback Grant Harmon constantly reminded himself the injury was “a minor setback for a major comeback.”
Harmon sustained the season-ending injury during the 2014 Ardmore super scrimmage. He ran a draw play and then sprinted down the sideline for positive yardage.
Initially, he didn’t think that it was serious. He felt that he could just get up on his two feet and walk it off. Moments later, he experienced a different sensation. He said that his knee “didn’t feel like it normally does.”
A simple running play ended his season.
The toughest part for Harmon was not being on the field with his Longhorns teammates. He could only watch as a spectator.
All of the talent that Lone Grove had on its roster had the Longhorns believing that it could compete for the District 3A-4 title. Lone Grove had never captured one in the program’s 42-year history.
Instead of Harmon taking the snaps, he cheered on sophomore Garrett Lemons from the sideline.
Lemons filled in well in Harmon’s absence and the Longhorns raised the banner for winning that elusive district title. They also won their first playoff game in school history with a 35-27 triumph of Jones.
Harmon was impressed.
“He couldn’t have done any better,” Harmon said of Lemons. “He did everything that was asked of him.”
Lemons, in turn, was a big supporter of Harmon during his rehabilitation.
The amount of support the Longhorns have for each was evident on the day of Harmon’s surgery. Several teammates, including Lemons, Layne McClennahan and Chaz McGuire, visited him in the hospital.
“We said that we’re going to play with a chip on our shoulders,” Harmon said. “They told me that ‘we just want you to know that we’re playing for you.’”
Three months later, Harmon was back in the weight room and on the football field, preparing for his senior season.
Running on his surgically-repaired knee for the first time proved to be a nerve-racking moment.
Compared to the broken elbow that he sustained his freshman year, this injury was much worse — at least in his mind.
“The nerves really set in,” he said. “There was a bunch of stuff that went through my mind. Am I going to be as good as I was? Just a bunch of things going through your head all at once.”
Lone Grove coach Jeremy Turner was, admittedly, nowhere as nervous as Harmon.
“I fully expected (Harmon would recover from the injury),” he said. “There is nobody more mentally tough, both physically and mentally, playing high school football around this area than Grant. It was unfortunate whenever it happened, but I knew that we would have the opportunity to bounce back.”
And bounce back, Harmon has — quite well.
Upon completion of rehabilitation, Harmon had another hurdle to overcome this summer: a quarterback competition.
Because Lemons quarterbacked the Longhorns to the district title, Harmon was involved in a highly-competitive audition with Lemons to determine this year’s starting signal-caller. He was okay with that.
Turner told both athletes they were so talented that whichever one didn’t win that competition would be a significant contributor somewhere else on the field.
Lemons helps to anchor Lone Grove’s secondary.
Harmon has performed well in his return as the Longhorns’ starting quarterback.
With a perfect 2-0 mark in district play, the Longhorns are off to a good start.
An injury as serious as the one that Harmon sustained required him to get back in sync with his receivers.
Harmon said that he didn’t feel as sharp as he was prior to the injury until Week Five (Sept. 25). That night, he engineered eight first-half touchdown drives in Lone Grove’s 61-21 rout of Madill. He was seven of 10 on passes for 157 yards with two touchdowns.
That wasn’t even his best statistical game of the 2015 season.
Harmon passed for six touchdowns and ran for another in Lone Grove’s 62-6 win over Hugo on Sept. 11. He finished eight of 12 passing for 138 yards and rushed for 63 yards on seven carries.
Turner went as far as saying that Harmon’s decision-making is better now than it was his sophomore season.
“Without a doubt,” Turner said. “He’s faster. He’s stronger. He’s told me so many times when he was a sophomore that things seemed fast. This year, he feels like it is in slow motion.”
But for Harmon, team goals supersede individual ones.
Seeing Lone Grove repeat as district champion would put a huge smile on his face.
“That would be nice,” he said. “That’s our goal every year.”