This latest twist in Ethan Arneson’s season was not nearly as pleasant as the first.
Early in the second quarter of last Friday’s Class 3A state football semifinal, someone fell on the right ankle of the leading rusher in Frederick County this season, causing it to twist in an awkward way.
“It was a sharp, shooting pain for a couple of minutes,” said Arneson, a sophomore at Linganore High. “It starts to go away. But the more you do on it, it just doesn’t get any better.”
After getting the ankle re-taped and jogging on it over on the sideline, Arneson went back into the contest. But after taking one more carry, he realized the ankle was not going to hold up.
He spent the rest of the game — a 23-14 victory over Frederick High School that sent the Lancers (12-0) into their 14th state final Saturday night in Annapolis against Northern-Calvert — watching from the sideline with orange tape around the sprained ankle and a plaid overcoat over his uniform jersey.
“That was way more pain than the physical pain,” Arneson said. “But it was nice to see [senior backup] Josh Little go out and perform just as well as I did.”
Over the last week, Arneson has been receiving daily treatment on the ankle. It involves laser therapy to help identify the most pain-sensitive areas and repair broken-down tissue around the sprain, as well as an ice pack.
Any notion that he would miss Saturday night’s state final was shot down by both Arneson and coach Rick Conner.
After erring on the side of caution earlier in the week, Arneson was back taking handoffs during Thursday’s practice.
Arneson was already dealing with a balky left ankle after he sprained it as a member of Linganore’s junior varsity team during the shortened spring season. But it hasn’t slowed him down at all.
Heading into the state final, he’s rushed for 2,058 yards and 21 touchdowns on 297 carries, averaging almost seven yards per carry behind his terrific and experienced offensive line.
“He didn’t even start the first two games of the season,” Conner said.
Indeed, Arneson was pulled up to the varsity team to play middle linebacker and help shore up that position group.
But, in a twist of fate, Arneson tore through defenses every time they gave him a token carry on offense, which quickly prompted the coaching staff to pull him off defense and make him the team’s featured back.
While Arneson is on the verge of surpassing 300 carries for the season, a heavy workload for a 5-foot-6, 160-pound running back, no other Linganore runner has more than 73.
“He has running back skills that are hard to teach, and he lets us coach him, too,” Conner said. “He is good. He is really good.”
Arneson, who grew up playing running back for youth championship teams, made his first start for Linganore Sept. 17 against Walkersville and finished with 208 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries, often not meeting his first defender until he was 7 or 8 yards down the field.
He has since set the school’s single-game record for rushing yards (353) in a Sept. 24 home game against Oakdale, and was on his way to another big game (81 yards on 12 carries) last week against Frederick prior to his right ankle getting sprained.
“Obviously, coming into the season, I was planning on playing linebacker with my old friend, Carter Neal, who has been doing a great job at linebacker with Nate Engel,” Arneson said. “I was really expecting to play just defense. So, I am pretty surprised with what I have come up with on offense this year.”