Cary-Grove senior Danny Daigle straps on a shoulder brace before each practice and game more so as a precaution than a necessity.
Daigle, who plays running back and defensive back, feels like his right shoulder problems – a torn labrum and a dislocation in 2017 – are ancient history.
His performances thus far indicate that he is correct.
Daigle returns to Red Raider Stadium, the site where he suffered the dislocation last season, on Friday as the Trojans take on Huntley at 7 p.m. in a pivotal Fox Valley Conference football game.
Both teams are 3-0 overall and in the FVC. Huntley could put itself in a favorable position by completing a trifecta of victories over Jacobs, Prairie Ridge and C-G, the other top three FVC teams in recent years along with the Red Raiders.
C-G, No. 1 in The Associated Press Class 6A poll, is facing its first game against those other three teams.
“I’m very excited for this game,” Daigle said. “It’s going to show what kind of team we are, too.”
Daigle already had a torn labrum that would require surgery when C-G went to Huntley last season. He dived for a tipped pass during that game and fell awkwardly, dislocating his right shoulder.
Trojans coach Brad Seaburg marveled at Daigle’s toughness.
“They popped his shoulder back in, and he wanted to play that night,” Seaburg said. “That’s the type of kid he is. He does whatever it takes, and he’s going to give his best. We had a lot of guys who battled through (injuries) and gave it their all (last season). Danny kind of epitomized what a lot of those guys did.”
Daigle (5-foot-11, 165 pounds) missed two games, then came back for the end of the regular season and the playoffs, knowing surgery was looming.
“I give the kid props,” Trojans quarterback Ben McDonald said. “He’s really tough. He wasn’t doing it for himself, he was doing it for the team. He wanted what was best for the team. I had no doubt he would be back (this season). He wouldn’t miss this for the world.”
McDonald threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Daigle with 19 seconds remaining in the season opener to beat Crystal Lake South, 29-22. Daigle leads C-G with 10 receptions for 144 yards and has rushed 17 times for 175 yards, along with helping the defense in the secondary and returning punts.
“I just hope that I can do my job,” Daigle said. “Do what I’m told to do, make some big plays out there. There were some things (last season) that limited me from what I usually could do, but it worked out pretty well. It wasn’t that big of a deal.”
Daigle had surgery three days after the Trojans’ Class 6A second-round playoff loss to Prairie Ridge. He was back in the weight room with light weights in 12 weeks and back lifting near his normal weights by about the 18-week mark.
“Danny brings consistency and tremendous leadership,” Seaburg said. “He’s not a real vocal guy, but he’s a guy you can point at and say, ‘Are you playing as hard as Danny is today?’ He’s doing a lot of things at a high level.”
Along with McDonald, fullback Blake Skol and wide receiver Quinn Priester, Daigle gives the Trojans a lot of players for opposing defenses to try to stop.
After the tight first game, C-G notched big wins over Crystal Lake Central and Hampshire.
“Our guys have been really focused about getting better at what they’re doing,” Seaburg said. “We have a lot of young guys on the defensive side, and it’s been good to see them take some steps ahead in playing faster. We really feel like we’re playing really well.”
C-G will see one of the area’s best defenses with Huntley, as well as a Red Raiders offense that has produced through running and passing. Quarterback Chris Raffin, a first-year starter, leads the area with 632 passing yards and delivered under pressure at Prairie Ridge.
The Raiders trailed, 28-27, with a little more than nine minutes remaining. Raffin directed them 85 yards in 19 plays for the game-winning touchdown, completing passes to four players on that drive.
“You think about how many times coaches have run those drills in practice where you have the ball, last series, and you’re driving,” Huntley coach Matt Zimolzak said. “We prepare for it. Chris is confident enough to play in those types of situations. He’s a very mature quarterback, and I have confidence in him.”
Zimolzak sees other strong FVC teams in the Raiders’ final five games, but a win over C-G would leave Huntley as the only unbeaten team in the conference.
“Crystal Lake South has proven to be a very talented team,” Zimolzak said. “It’s a tremendous thing that our conference prepares us really, really well for the playoffs. It’s some great competition. I’m excited about playing Brad (and his team).”