As evidenced by its lofty state ranking, the Whiteland Community High School football team is not a one-man show. Far from it.
Senior-laden and talented on both sides of the ball, the Warriors average 34 points per game, yield only 17 and are viable contenders for the Class 5A state title.
No one player powers the seventh-ranked Warriors (2-1).
Yet the loss of one particular player has created an emotional — and statistical — void on a close-knit team that now has to carry on without its leading ball carrier.
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Senior running back Shaw Cloud, one of the area’s top rushers, is likely out for the season with a broken left leg. He suffered the injury during last week’s 35-14 win against then-Class 5A No. 7 Decatur Central.
Cloud, who already had scored two touchdowns, was hurt after hauling in a pass for a 10-yard gain. The injury, which required surgery, was serious enough that he left the field in an ambulance.
Although Cloud is expected to make a full recovery, the Warriors now face the prospect of pursuing a state championship without their chief offensive weapon. Players and coaches are confident the goal is still reachable, but the dynamic of the chase certainly has changed.
“I don’t know if you can replace Shaw,” Warriors head coach Darrin Fisher said. “No. 1, his ability on the field kind of speaks for itself. No. 2 is his leadership in the locker room, in the weight room and on the field and in the huddle.
“We’ve taken a hit with some depth, that’s for sure.”
But not necessarily an objective- ending hit.
Blessed with a stable of effective rushers in seniors Brandon Patterson and Chris Richardson, and junior Anthony Schantz, and directed by an ever-improving quarterback in junior Jace Carpenter, the Warriors still have the firepower to contend with the best in Class 5A.
Last week’s win against Decatur Central proved that.
When Cloud went down, the Warriors led 20-7. By the time it was over, they had a convincing victory against their higher-ranked Mid-State Conference rival.
“I was so proud of our team for handling the adversity on Friday night as well as they did,” Fisher said. “I think they handled it unbelievably well. At first, they were shocked. Their ability to come back out and focus was an incredible sign of maturity on their part.
“That’s a really close-knit group of kids. I was really proud of them.”
For the Warriors (2-1), Cloud was — and is — more than just a standout player. He’s a close friend and popular teammate who they have fiercely rallied around.
Many have visited him on multiple occasions since his surgery. And all are playing with a renewed sense of purpose in the wake of his injury.
“We all became a little bit closer. We’re playing for 18 now,” said senior defensive back Chase Jones, in reference to Cloud’s jersey number. “That’s our guy, and we’re going to do the best we can to still achieve our goals.
“Our goals are still the same.”
So is the Warriors’ offensive plan of attack.
Although Cloud’s absence subtracts a measure of big-play ability, it doesn’t erase it. Patterson, Schantz and Richardson already were a regular part of the backfield rotation and will be leaned on heavier moving forward.
Juniors Edwin Cisneros and Jaylen Storms, who were seeing occasional work, likely will see more.
“Those are guys who get lots of touches, anyway. They’re going to get a few more,” Fisher said. “I don’t know if we’re going to find different ways to attack; we’re just going to attack with different people.
“We’ll shuffle the deck a little bit.”
Although Cloud won’t contribute in the backfield, he’ll contribute off the field. His injury has not excused him from his leadership role.
Fisher already has made that clear.
“We’re going to ask him to still lead this team but in a different kind of way. He’s still going to have to have to lead his team,” Fisher said. “His spirits are as good as can be expected. He’s been getting a lot of support. Our guys have probably been visiting him too much, I would say.
“Our whole football community has rallied around him.”
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Plainfield at Roncalli, 7 p.m.