Back in action

It’s spring vacation week, and the Milford High School boys lacrosse team doesn’t begin practice for at least another half hour.

A solitary player is on the field, standing next to a bucket of balls. He scoops one up, starts to run toward the goal, and quickly stops to fire a shot at the net. After each shot is taken, he repeats.
Some of the shots miss, some of the shots are right on target, but perhaps the most impressive thing is that Harrison Urda is able to do this at all.

It was a little more than six months ago that Urda’s athletic future looked bleak.

The afternoon of Oct. 12 started out as a good one for the Milford football team. After a slow start, the Spartans had taken a 22-0 lead over John Stark, and with time for one more play before halftime, they were looking for more.

Urda, a senior and two-year starter at quarterback, was in the shotgun and rolled to his left after getting the ball. With no one open, he tucked the ball and started running up the sideline. He slipped one tackle, but then, things took a turn for the worse.

“I tried to cut back to the left, and the kid’s, I think it was his shoulder or knee, came down on my ankle,” Urda said. “It felt like it was twisted in three different ways.”

Teammate Mitch Banuskevich was trying to throw a block for Urda, and turned around just in time to see the end of the play.

“I turned and saw his leg get rolled on,” Banuskevich said. “As soon as the kid tackled him he said ‘I’m story’ and they (John Stark players) all just ran and got out of there.”

But watching the play wasn’t the worst of it.

“It was the sounds,” Banuskevich said. “The sound of his screams were awful.”

Travis Hughes was back near the line of scrimmage, throwing a block of his own, and was unable to see what happened. He didn’t need to, to know something was wrong.

“I heard him yell,” Hughes said. “It was really scary. I heard coach (Milford head coach Keith Jones) yelling and everyone yelling. I expected the worst really.”

When Rick Urda, Harrison’s father and an assistant coach for the football team, reached his son, his initial fear was that Harrison had reinjured the knee he’d hurt as a freshman. He saw right away that wasn’t the case.

“I thought it was the knee again,” the elder Urda said. “It was extremely difficult to watch. I was the first one there. I immediately said to the official ‘it’s broken, call 911.’ Not much relief that it was the ankle, especially when he’s in such pain … and (the foot is) pointed the wrong way.”

On the ground, Harrison Urda could feel that something was wrong with his leg, but the reaction of everyone else kept him from looking.

“It wasn’t necessarily painful, it was the weirdness of how it felt,” Harrison said. “The kid actually got up and said ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry’ and ran away. I was like ‘oh no, something is wrong.’ Everyone was freaking out, so I figured I probably shouldn’t look at it. I didn’t look until I got to the hospital.”

And that’s where Harrison got the bad news – he had a fractured fibula and a dislocated ankle, and the tendons in between the broken bone and his tibia had been ripped. It was going to take four months of recovery, which meant no more football and no basketball.

But there was a sliver of hope.

“As soon as I heard four months, I thought, lacrosse was in about four months,” Harrison said. “I told myself I was going to work hard and be ready for the start of the season.”

That was a long way off, but there were plenty of people willing to show support.

“The day he got back to his house, there were about 20 of us, we brought food to him,” Banuskevich said. “We brought cake and we decorated it for him.”

The John Stark players sent a card, and some members of the Bishop Guertin football team stopped by as well.

“It was awesome because I was devastated that I wouldn’t be able to play basketball for the last time with my friends,” Harrison said. “Everybody came back to me and tried to keep me in high spirits.”

It was no surprise to Rick, who is also the Milford boys lacrosse head coach, but it was still nice to see other teams reaching out to try to cheer his son up.

“It’s a tight community we have in New Hampshire school boy football, and lacrosse for that matter,” he said. “We see each other scouting, and we know who’s kids are playing. Not that I had every lost faith in humanity, but it’s a good reminder that people, once the game is over, we’re friends again.”

After spending so much time participating in athletics, not being able to do anything was a difficult task for Harrison, and it wasn’t just what he knew was going on with the teams at school.

“It was absolutely tough,” he said. “My brothers, around the house, they’d go outside and play football, and I’d be inside wishing I could be outside with them. It was hard.”

But just because he was unable to play basketball didn’t mean he wasn’t around. Harrison went to practices to help out the boys team, and he attended as many home games – boys and girls – as he could. And the whole time, he stayed focused on getting back for lacrosse.

As soon as he was given the OK, Harrison started running on a treadmill, trying to get his conditioning back. And while the first few days of lacrosse tryouts were tough – both physically and mentally – he’s gotten back into a groove, something Rick never doubted.

“Given the fact that he’d been through it before, rehabbing the knee injury from his freshman year, I knew he had the work ethic to do it and the ambition,” he said. “He was definitely itching. Right from the get-go, he was working hard, being the leader that he needed to be in the gym. He’s more of a lead-by-example kid. He’ll work his tail off until he’s exhausted.”

And Harrison plans to continue to do so after high school, as he’ll be attending Eastern Connecticut State University. There, he figures he’ll study to be a physical education teach while playing lacrosse.

“They have a really good program there,” Harrison said. “This is my last (high school) season, I wanted to make sure I was here for the full season and be the best I can be.”