For Jesse Medina, Saturday’s season-opener against Clayton Valley Charter means more to him than many of his teammates.
First and foremost, it represents the start of the final season in a Carson High uniform for the 6-foot 240-pound defensive tackle, and it represents the first game he’s been 100 percent healthy since the first game of the 2013 season against Hug. Both are cause for celebration.
Medina lost a good chunk of his junior year when he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament and torn meniscus to his right knee during practice after the season-opening 23-13 win against Hug.
“It was the second week of practice (before the Reno High game), and one of my teammates fell on top of it (the knee),” Medina said. “It bent backward.”
Medina visited Dr. Jeffrey Cummings, and the news wasn’t good. Cummings told Medina he had a torn ACL, and an MRI was needed to verify that finding which it later did. Medina said he was told then that his season was over.
“I cried when I found out,” Medina said. “I felt like I was letting down my teammates; the seniors.”
Medina missed five games. He kept pleading with Cummings, and the doctor finally yielded. Despite the fact that he could do further damage to the knee, Medina returned to play some snaps against Galena, which was Senior Night. Carson won a 27-26 thriller. Medina, who had to wear a brace with a boatload of tape over the brace, did re-injure his knee later in the year after the Spanish Springs game. He managed just five tackles on the season.
“I didn’t want to give up on my team,” Medina said. “I couldn’t stand sitting around and watching. I wanted to play no matter what. I love this game; love this sport more than I love myself. It’s a passion I have. I play for them (my teammates).
“Ever since sixth grade I wanted to play here. I used to come to a lot of games. I remember seeing Justin Barlow (former two-way lineman) play. He wasn’t big by any means, and he dominated people. I wanted to live up to that.”
Medina’s desire wasn’t lost on coach Blair Roman.
“He has an unbelievable passion for the game,” Roman said. “He loves the sport. Every year since he came into the program he’s been one of our most motivated kids. He’s the epitome of how committed you can be. He’s a good player.
“He weighed the risks. He wanted to play. He was going to have surgery at the end of the year (no matter what). It points out how much he loves the game.”
After off-season surgery on Dec. 23, Medina has had a chance to test the surgically repaired knee during summer workouts and at the team camp at South Tahoe High School.
“I did physical therapy for four months,” Medina said. “I had confidence issues (with the knee) at first. I started to feel some pain. I trained a lot harder; worked hard to get back.
“I wear a brace now (all the time). The first couple of weeks it slowed me down. I got a brand-new brace, and now I feel I can run full speed; run through people.”
Medina’s task as a defensive tackle is simple — be a run-stopper. Occupy offensive linemen so linebackers can come in and make the stops. Medina is stout and quick, and Roman is counting on that strength and quickness to get the job done this season.
“I’m supposed to plug the holes and try to drive my guys back,” Medina said. “I’m not into stats. If I make a tackle, great.”
“He works hard,” Roman said. “He is extremely strong; strong in the weight room. I’m hoping that if we can get some outside pressure it will give him a chance to go 1-on-1 with somebody.”
Medina will have his work cut out on Saturday.
Clayton Valley, led by Miles Harrison (2,020 yards, 34 scores last year), runs probably 80 percent of the time. He is expected to go up against either Jacob Linderman (6-4, 325) or Shimon Rosenblatt (6-0, 230). Both are listed as centers on what is an incomplete CV roster.
“Harrison is a darn good player,” Medina said. “He is one of the better running backs I’ve seen. I embrace a challenge. I’m just going to go out there and give it my all. I went against Aaron Cowee all last year in practice, and he’s a Division I player. I am fine with it.”