BRAIDWOOD – Shortly after 11 p.m. on Friday, after the fans had scattered and the players had shed their gear, Coal City head football coach Lenny Onsen reflected on all the waiting his star running back Jack Dibble had done.
Two separate ACL injuries forced the senior to wait two years to get his chance at running back and get back into the end zone for the first time since he was a sophomore. Then, even after Dibble found the end zone 2:33 into his return, he was forced to wait another 55 minutes because of a lightning delay.
When Dibble and the Coalers emerged from the locker room, Onsen wasn’t sure what to expect.
“Their energy, and Jack’s energy, shocked me,” Onsen said after Friday’s 27-13 win over Reed-Custer. “I didn’t know what was going to happen, because they’re sitting there and they’re tight.
“But they came out with energy and I didn’t say a word. That was all that football team, and I was so proud of how they did it.”
As the fieldhouse emptied out, the stands refilled and the game resumed. For Dibble, it was everything he’d dreamed of.
“It was amazing,” he said. “I’ve been working my butt off since two years ago when I tore my first [ACL]. Hard work and persistance pays off. Everything you see in those inspirational sports quotes is all true.”
Onsen made sure to erase any lingering doubt over the status of Dibble’s health by riding the speedy senior to the tune of 28 carries for 200 yards and a trio of touchdowns. And after Dibble had longed to get back into the end zone, Friday’s performance was even better than he’d ever expected.
“It was better than I expected, I’m not gonna lie,” Dibble said. “I remember scoring one my sophomore year, but that seemed so long ago that I couldn’t even describe the feeling. It was just something I had to do again, and tonight was amazing.”
Behind a big, experienced offensive line, Dibble performance powered the Coalers to the win. And for Onsen, having seen Dibble battling back from injury just to get hurt again last year, it was an emotional experience.
“I can’t be happier for that young man,” Onsen said with tears welling in his eyes. “To see a kid work that hard and do that well… it was special.”
However, Dibble’s Friday night performance was much more than just a feel-good story for Coal City, which is ranked No. 7 in Class 4A according the Associated Press. If Dibble can continue to wear down opposing defenses and get into the end zone, it makes the Coalers real threats to win the Interstate Eight Large and make a postseason run.
“Tonight is definitely a win that we have to build upon, but just for his sake tonight, it was great,” Onsen said. “Our offensive line played well. We ate clock when we needed to, and it really showed that we can move the football up and down the field.
“That’s something we struggled with at times last year, and it seems like we have been on the opposite end of a lot of these in our openers, so it feels good to get a win and have something that we know we can improve upon.”