Everett kick

Watauga senior Carter Everett kicks a point after against Alexander Central on Oct. 8. The made kick was Everett’s first play in six months after an ACL tear.

BOONE — When he ran out to kick an extra point against Alexander Central on Friday, Oct. 8, it had been a long time since Watauga senior Carter Everett had seen the field. Nailing the kick, Everett gave his team an early 7-0 lead with his first on-field play in 175 days.

While the game against Alexander Central was in the ballpark of his targeted return, the actual decision to clear him to play came down to the wire. Just 12 hours before the game, Everett was in a doctor’s office to see if he could play that night.

“I couldn’t sleep much last night, I was really excited,” Everett said after the game.

In a playoff game against Dudley on April 16 six months earlier, a defender rolled into Everett’s right leg, tearing the anterior cruciate ligament. While advancements in medicine have made the injury something that players can bounce back from, the 2020-21 sports calendar had been shifted in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning a shortened offseason and a high likelihood that he would miss a good portion of his senior season.

Having played linebacker, running back and kicker, Everett found out he would be limited to kicking in his return. He expected to be back in the middle of October and was determined to come back and make an impact.

After getting the go-ahead to play, Everett said he was excited all day to get back on the field.

Pioneers head coach Ryan Habich praised Everett’s perseverance in coming back from the injury, noting that the senior never missed a practice or game, despite having to watch from the sidelines.

“He worked his tail off and he had a goal to come back in October,” Habich said after the game against A.C. “We didn’t know if he was going to kick tonight. He had a doctor’s appointment that we couldn’t move up. I think he told me at noon (he was cleared to play).”

Although he was limited to a pair of extra points — both of which he made — Everett said that helping the team pull off the 28-21 win was as good as it gets.

“It felt great to help in whatever way and my teammates lifted me up,” Everett said. “It kills me not to play all games like previous years, but I’m glad that I can help in whatever way.”

He is now kicking with a brace on his leg, but Everett said he can hardly feel it, adding that everything was “about normal.”

“Six months ago, I was laying on that field and it hurt so bad to walk and then the next couple weeks I couldn’t walk,” Everett said. “Medicine’s crazy.”

On the field, Everett’s return brings a new aspect to the team’s offense, Habich said, with more consistent point after kicks and field goal opportunities giving the Pioneers that extra chance to win.

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