GIBSON CITY — Aidan Laughery’s senior season with the Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley football team was derailed back in Week 1.
Coach Mike Allen’s Falcons, however, keep trucking along despite losing the Illinois commit to injury.
Laughery, the GCMS star running back and safety, will miss his third consecutive game when GCMS (2-1) hosts LeRoy (1-2) at 7 p.m. Friday in Heart of Illinois Conference Small action.
Laughery took a helmet to his left knee early in the Falcons’ Aug. 28 loss to Carlinville. He stayed on the field for a few drives afterward, even producing a 69-yard touchdown run that didn’t suggest any sort of injury.
Eventually, though, Laughery was spotted on the sideline with a large bag of ice taped to the outside of his left leg.
“He will not be playing again this week,” Allen told The News-Gazette. “His leg each day is getting better, but we’re still a ways away probably from him getting to play.”
Laughery also dealt with an injury late in his junior year that sidelined him for the Class 1A boys’ track and field state championship meet, in which he was the 100-meter dash’s top seed.
Laughery’s on-field absence has been paired with fellow senior Awstace Grauer also missing each of the Falcons’ first three games this season. Grauer is a key athlete in the team’s backfield and defensive secondary.
“(They’re) being extra coaches on the sideline — keeping kids motivated, helping the younger kids when they come off the sideline (and) helping them on assignments,” Allen said. “So the role’s just kind of changed.”
Despite two of Allen’s nine seniors losing significant playing time, the Falcons haven’t missed a beat in the win column.
They’re not recording easy wins like the 2017 and 2018 GCMS teams did en route to consecutive Class 2A state titles.
But victories are victories.
A 26-13 win at Fisher in Week 2 and a 7-0 home win against El Paso-Gridley in Week 3 put the Falcons two steps closer to their eighth straight postseason berth.
“This has given an opportunity for some kids to get a lot of playing time (and) to make our team not only better right now but deeper, hopefully, toward the end of the season,” Allen said. “Once we get everybody healthy, we’re just going to hopefully be that much better of a team.”
The GCMS defense has been crucial to the Falcons’ winning record heading into almost the halfway point of the season. GCMS has kept the opposition scoreless in eight of 12 quarters thus far.
Allen credited a six-man defensive line rotation led by position coach Kip Rutledge for setting the tone. Senior linebacker Brandon Mueller, Allen added, also has provided an extremely positive presence.
“The play of Brandon Mueller has been so impressive all year,” Allen said. “His reads are getting better. He’s coming downhill and just having a great season.”
Junior Rylan DeFries and sophomores Carson Maxey and Ty Cribbett have stepped into defensive secondary roles and, according to Allen, are performing admirably, as well.
The key for GCMS — especially as long as Laughery continues missing time — is finding consistent offense.
Cribbett scored the Falcons’ only touchdown last week on a 3-yard rush with fewer than 3 minutes remaining in regulation, and he generated all of his team’s touchdowns in the win versus Fisher.
Senior Jake Zumwalt and sophomore Aiden Sancken have picked up some slack at running back, and senior quarterback Kellen DeSchepper still is seeking his first touchdown pass.
“We have to start scoring points. We can’t keep relying on our defense,” Allen said. “We’re going to focus on what we have to do to get better, and we’re going to play it week by week. When Aidan gets back, we’re going to be a stronger team. But we’re focused right now on Friday night — getting better to play LeRoy because they’re going to be tough.”