BURNS – Ben Banville felt a painful pinch in his hip joints during the start of fall camp last season.
He toughed it out, but kept an eye on it.
As the days wore on and the season was still young, the injury got worse. Banville knew something was wrong, but he didn’t want to let his teammates or coaches down.
Week 3 against Moorcroft, Banville felt a “pop” in his hips. He collapsed to the field turf, writhing in pain.
“I couldn’t do it anymore after that. It was too much,” he recalled.
The Burns standout’s season was suddenly cut short.
Banville waited a few weeks to allow the injury and, perhaps, the swelling to go down. Then, he tried to return to the field. But his hips didn’t cooperate, flaring up again during one of the initial practice plays he was involved in.
“I could barely walk sometimes,” the fullback and defensive lineman said. “I felt like I was going to collapse a lot just from walking.”
It was only after Banville made every attempt to salvage what was left of his junior season that he called it off. He didn’t want to risk the upcoming wrestling season.
The realization that instead of lining up alongside his best buddies, trading tackles and big hits, and winning games, Banville was now relegated to the sidelines in street clothes was harrowing.
“It was tough seeing all my friends, especially in the Pine (Bluffs) game, because that’s the biggest game of the season,” Banville said. The Broncs rallied that night for a 26-20 overtime victory to upset the No. 3-ranked Class 1A Hornets after trailing 20-7 at halftime.
Banville saw five or six doctors and specialists for his injury. None were able to confirm exactly what the injury was, but Banville was told some of the tendons in his hips were pulling away from the bone and chipping it off, which the doctors and specialists said was causing all of the pain.
Surgery wasn’t required, and Banville went down every treatment path he could think of. From acupuncture to chiropractors, he couldn’t shake the injury.
From that point on, Banville focused on resting. He got some treatment and did some rehab on his own – stretches and other exercises to strengthen the muscles around his hips. After about four or five weeks, the pain went away.
“It was a freak thing that happened out of nowhere,” he said of the injury. “It started feeling better after I stopped playing. I think it was just all the wear and tear of playing football, like cutting and things like that, just wore on it.”
After starting 2-0, the Broncs lost four consecutive games and finished the season 4-4. The absence of Banville on both sides of the ball was felt dramatically.
“It was huge,” second-year Broncs coach Brad Morrison said. “I think he is one of the five or six best defensive linemen in the state, from what I’ve seen at camps and colleges that we went to and what I’ve seen on film. There’s some good players, but he fits in with those guys.
“He is everything you want for a high school defensive lineman. It was big on defense. And on offense, he is our fullback, and everything goes through him. You don’t have that position unless he is a special kid, in 2019 with fullbacks being what they were. We’re a spread team with the fullback, and we are because he is a hammer. We lost a lot there when he went down.”
Banville’s injury-shortened junior campaign saw him register 22 total tackles, including seven solo stops and three tackles for loss.
But the Burns senior has put last season behind him. He is back and fully healthy for his final go-round in an orange and black uniform. But he is somewhat worried the injury will pop up again.
“I haven’t really had anything yet, so I’m just kind of trying to play as hard as I can, get the other guys to play as hard as they can and have a good season,” he said.
The plan, Morrison said, is to get the most out of Banville in an efficient manner. For example, Morrison and his coaching staff have let Banville go full speed during practice and other team drills, but they also know the skills he brings to the table.
“He is a known commodity to us, and we have other kids that we’ve got to figure out what they can do,” the coach said. “We have the ability with 44 guys now to be able to not play him every play of the game like teams have had to in the past and how a lot of small schools have to.
“We have a luxury of having a lot of kids that can play, so this year he’ll definitely have less reps, but the reps that he’ll get will be higher quality, for sure.”
The risk of reaggravating his hips always is in the back of Banville’s mind. But, for now, he’s pouring all of his focus and concentration into enjoying and making the most out of his senior season.
“I’m hoping I get to play a whole season,” he said. “That’d be nice.”