NEW CASTLE —
Whether you’re talking about 6-foot-5, 270-pound Neshannock High senior Steven Jeffries or 5-9, 175 Mohawk senior Shane McFarland, the word fits.
Both players battled through early-season injuries to lead their respective football squads through the 2013 season and in the process, earned scholarships to continue their football and academic careers at Football Championship Subdivision institutions.
Jeffries, a son of Robert and Amy Jeffries, signed his binding letter of intent to play at Youngstown State University yesterday, while McFarland, a son of Brian and Lucinda McFarland, committed to Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.
Jeffries missed minimal action after unknowingly tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in the Lancers’ 35-14 win over Big Seven Conference foe Shenango in Week 4.
“Once (the YSU coaching staff) found that out about Steven, there was no doubt he was a guy they wanted to have in their program,” Neshannock coach Fred Mozzocio said. “He came back and played the entire season. Never missed a workout. Never missed a practice. Never missed a game.
“He laid it all on the line for his teammates, his coaches and his community. He played the entire season with that injury. You could see he was dragging, but he refused to come out of the lineup. My respect for Steven as a football player and his toughness is unbelievable. That’s something I won’t ever forget.”
McFarland suffered an abdominal injury in the Warriors’ 35-8 triumph over Freedom in Week 1 and typically never left the field after.
“For a running back, that can be a serious problem,” Mohawk coach Joe Lamenza said. “People don’t understand how much pain he played through this year. Every once in a while, you’d see him wince, but he never complained. He never asked to come out. He just elevated his performance every week. His toughness, durability and stamina was just incredible.
“I was asked by a lot of college coaches to describe him in word. I just kept coming back to ‘tough.’ He’s just a tough, physical football player. I can’t think of a better compliment to give to a player.”