Hutchinson’s return from concussion boosts Smyrna

Smyrna football Josh Hutchinson by .

Josh Hutchinson missed seven games before returning for limited action in the Eagles’ first playoff game two weeks ago. He’s back to full strength and will be starting for Smyrna in Saturday’s rematch in the Division I state championship game. (Delaware State News file photo)

SMYRNA — Mike Judy remembered watching players standing up from the pile.

Then all of a sudden Smyrna High’s coach saw one of his guys at the bottom wasn’t moving. Soon everyone else was on their feet except for Josh Hutchinson, who remained down.

It was the first time Smyrna (11-1) met Salesianum School (10-1) in football this season and it almost ended Hutchinson’s season. The junior middle linebacker suffered a concussion as Smyrna stopped the Sals on a fourth-and-short to end the third quarter.

Hutchinson missed the next seven games before returning for limited action in the Eagles’ first playoff game two weeks ago. He’s back to full strength and will be starting for Smyrna in the rematch Saturday in the Division I state championship game (1 p.m. at Delaware Stadium).

“This particular situation was really scary,” Hutchinson said. “It really messed me up, but to know that I might be able to come back for the playoffs gave me hope.”

Hutchinson was having a standout game for Smyrna at middle linebacker before he was hurt. He was leading the team with 15 tackles through three quarters and made the first contact with the ballcarrier on the play when the Eagles forced the turnover on downs, trailing by one touchdown entering the fourth quarter.

But all that changed when Hutchinson didn’t get up.

It also affected his twin brother Eli Hutchinson, who plays outside linebacker next to him. Eli Hutchinson tried to focus on the task at hand but was worrying about his brother, who left the field on a stretcher to be loaded into an ambulance.

“They told me he was going to be all right, so I was just trying to get through the game,” Eli Hutchinson said. “I had to play that game for him and hope he gets better. It was in the back of mind, though, because I was concerned for him. But when I got to the hospital later that night I saw he was going to be OK.”

“I can only imagine what was going through his family’s mind,” Judy said. “I hope that we never have to experience anything like that again. But they’re a resilient family. They’ve been growing up playing football and wrestling their entire lives, so they’re used to it.”

If there was one positive to take out of the injury, it’s that Eli Hutchinson moved into Josh Hutchinson’s role as the middle linebacker and signal caller for the rest of the season. He ended up on the Henlopen Conference Northern Division’s first team.

Sophomore Diron Acco was thrust into the starting lineup in Josh Hutchinson’s place as an outside linebacker. He finished the year on the All-Henlopen North second team.

“There was a silver lining in all that,” Judy said. “Adversity made us a better team and now we got them all back.”

“As linebackers we all had to step up,” Eli Hutchinson said. “The coaches told us it’s a next man up attitude. We had to all play with the same determination and fight that [Josh] had.”

Josh Hutchinson was actually cleared for the Eagles’ final regular season game against Polytech, but with the Henlopen North already clinched, the Smyrna staff elected to hold him out for another week.

Both Hutchinsons were on the top of their game in Saturday’s semifinal victory over defending state champion William Penn.

Eli Hutchinson recorded 15 tackles while Josh Hutchinson had 12 tackles, including three for a loss.

“I was happy to be out there with him,” Eli Hutchinson said. “It was exciting to be alongside him again. I love playing next to my brother and the William Penn game was just great. I could really tell he was playing at the highest level that he can.”

“I’m confident in him and he’s confident in me,” Josh Hutchinson said. “I know what’s going to happen on his side like I know what’s going to happen on my side. There’s nothing like it.”

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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