John Becton thought it would just be a temporary setback. There was little pain in his right knee, and he expected to be back on the football field the following week.
The next morning, however, Becton got the news he didn't want to hear. He likely wouldn't be able for the rest of his junior season in 1998 because of a strained right knee. What hurt even more was Becton's Richmond Academy Musketeers were right in the middle of jockeying for a state playoff berth.
Becton was injured while attempting to catch a pass in ARC's game with Washington County during the middle of last season. He tried to adjust a short-out route to compensate for quarterback Davis Beman's short pass. His leg planted in the turf and bent backward.
"The doctor looked at it (after the play) and I thought I was all right because I was walking up and down the sidelines," Becton said. "I thought I was all right. But after he checked it further, it started swelling up and got real bad. He told me to wait until the next morning, then come and get it checked out.
"I got it checked out the next day and doctors determined I had pulled ligaments and I probably wouldn't be able to play for the rest of the year."
The loss not only hurt Becton, but the entire team. The Musketeers had a promising quarterback in Beman, a solid running back in Larry Lee and two big-play wide receivers in Muhammad Rashada and Jahmal Rainey. With Becton out for the year, opposing teams could double cover Rashada and Rainey and slow down ARC's passing attack.
After Becton's injury, Richmond lost two of its next five games, but managed to make the playoffs. Becton was at every one of those games, watching from the sidelines while rehabbing his right knee.
"It was hard watching those games from the sidelines," he said. "Some of those games (late in the season), we needed that third or fourth receiver to open up the passing game even more."
Richmond Academy coach Jim Turner wanted to experiment with more passing plays.. He hadRashada and Rainey to run those plays, but without Becton as the third receiver, he was somewhat limited.
"It really hurt us a lot," Turner said. "People were able to put two or even three guys on Muhammad (Rashada) and it limited the things he (Rashada) could do as well as the things we did team-wise last season."
Becton completed his rehab in late February and ran track for the first time this spring to strengthen his leg muscles. He also increased his speed with the spring participation.
The 6-foot, 155-pound Becton is now the Musketeers' big-play receiver this year, taking over for Rashada, who graduated. He caught ARC's only touchdown in the Musketeers' 31-14 loss to Westside last Saturday.
"I'm just thankful to be able to play after that injury," he said. "It wasn't any thing major and it wasn't something that could be fixed overnight. I'm ready to go, ready to play a complete season."