With several key pieces back from the program’s first state semifinal trip in nearly two decades, Bishop Kelley was expected to be among the top contenders in Class 5A going into the season.
But season-ending injuries to standout defensive lineman Montrell Cozart as well as offensive stars Cori Lewis and Zach Middleton left the Comets with four losses in the regular season and a third place finish in District 5A-3. Kelley (6-4) travels to Collinsville, another team that has battled the injury bug, Friday for the first round of the playoffs.
“They may not have lost as many guys as we have, but they lost some of their dynamic guys,” said Collinsville coach Kevin Jones.
The Cardinals have played a majority of the season without several key starters. Brayden Burd (RB/LB), Zach Kitch (DE), Trevin Hodges (LB), Cannon Howard (OL) and Luc Stein (OLB) each had their seasons end prematurely with knee injuries. Running backs Jeran Seabolt and Brayden Gilkey, three-year starting offensive lineman Zac Robbins and two-way starter Caden Jones have each missed time due to injuries and were listed as day-to-day going into the week.
Despite the mounting injuries, Collinsville finished the regular season 8-2, second place in District 5A-4 and the right to host a playoff game. Both Cardinal losses came by a combined eight points.
Jones attributes Collinsville’s continued success to the mentality of his players.
“It’s like in life when things go wrong, you can either go pout about it or pull up your boots and move forward,” Jones said. “Our kids have done an amazing job of being resilient.”
Considering the state of both teams, Jones said he expects a close, grind-it-out type of game when the Comets invade Sallee Field on Friday.
“We’re going to have to play real physical and make them beat us,” he said. “We just can’t beat ourselves.”