In the huddle: Bruin wideout Reina pushing to get back on field in senior season
For as long as he can remember, Joey Reina had worked for this season, his senior campaign as Bear River’s No. 1 wide receiver.
Football has been his life, as he worked toward his goal of leading the Bruins to a Pioneer Valley League title, a deep run in the Division IV playoffs and then, perhaps, a scholarship to catch passes for a college team.
He spent the offseason in the weight room, adding around 18 to 20 pounds of muscle and about an additional 100 to his max in the bench press, which now stands at 320 pounds.
When his Bruins took to the J. David Ramsey field for the season-opener against Cordova, Reina was, indeed, bigger, stronger and faster. And he certainly didn’t disappoint in what turned out to be a breakout performance in Bear River’s 50-43 victory.
Reina reeled in seven catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns on that first Friday night under the lights. His last catch in that late August evening, a 30-yard pass from junior quarterback James Harris, proved to be the game-winner with 18 seconds remaining.
And, as of this week, it also was the last pass he has caught for the Bruins.
Reina remembers driving downfield from the line of scrimmage, making a cut toward the middle of the field to fake a post pattern and then planting his right foot to cut back outside to the left corner of the end zone, where he hauled in the touchdown toss from Harris.
“I faked the post and then planted my foot, but I didn’t know I was hurt,” Reina said. “I felt the pain, but I definitely didn’t think it was something like this, something that would keep me out this long.”
It’s been six very long weeks since Reina took to the field in full gear, even more so due to the accidental death of his fellow wide receiver Justin Butler. He said he has been impressed by the way his teammates have pulled together, but also extremely frustrated that he couldn’t get out on the field to help them each week.
“It’s been tough watching my team play,” Reina said. “I’m so glad they’ve been winning. I’m so proud of them.
“But I worked so hard in the offseason and to have what seems to be a short-term injury but only be told ‘next week’ over and over again and ‘we’ll see Monday’ … I just don’t think any of us expected it to take this long.”
Reina said he has an avulsion fracture in his right ankle, where the tendons and ligaments attach to bone, along with a “minimal separation of my tibia and fibula.” At this point, he added, doctors want to be sure torn tendons and ligaments have healed before he’s cleared to play.
“I’m just doing whatever I can to get back on the field to help my team,” Reina said. “I ice it every night and do my stretches and work it out through physical therapy. I’m doing everything I can to get better.”
There’s not much doubt that his teammates are looking forward to his return, which, at best, could be the Oct. 22 home date with Lincoln (5-1). Though clearly a run-first offense, grinding out 268 yards per game, the Bruins could use Reina to help stretch the field in the passing game. Harris threw for 182 yards in the season opener, but has totaled only 165 passing yards in the five games since.
“It’s just been a tough deal for him,” said Bear River co-head coach Scott Savoie. “He has one great game and so far that’s been all of his senior year. We just keep hoping that it’s only going to be a couple of weeks.”
With each Monday morning check-up, only to be told “maybe next week,” Reina knows he’s lost another of his precious few opportunities remaining to play high school football. He’s hopeful that the Bruins can keep winning, which could help grant him at least one additional game via a playoff berth.
“They’ve been doing great,” Reina said. “The way they’ve overcome what happened with Justin, and with me being out and (lineman) Craig (Hackland) and Sam (Houston) and all the bumps and bruises … I’m proud of them. To go 4-2, with everything that’s happened, that’s great.”
No matter when he makes his return, Reina is hoping that his playing days won’t end with his final high school season.
“I’m going to try and play, for sure, in college,” he said. “Missing most of my senior year, (college scouts) aren’t going to have much of an idea of what kind of football player I am. But I’m going to try my best.”
Contact Sports Editor Brian Hamilton via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 477-4240.
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