Jake Hutter congratulates teammates

MayPort-CG senior Jake Hutter congratulates teammates after the Patriots scored a third-quarter touchdown against Maple River last Friday. Hutter left the game against the Raiders with a knee injury in the second quarter but his coaches expect him to return to the field in the upcoming 9-man playoffs.

MAYVILLE – Jake Hutter slammed his fist into the artificial turf at Jerome Berg Field.

The MayPort-CG senior cornerback remained on the ground for several minutes after appearing to injure one of his knees on the previous play in the second quarter against Maple River.

As his teammates knelt and a hush fell over the crowd, Hutter struggled to his feet and hobbled to the sidelines with head coach Adam Sola under one arm and assistant Kade Elliott under the other.

Hutter had tears in his eyes when I shuffled past him with my camera a few minutes later.

I didn’t have time to have a heart to heart with Hutter and it wasn’t my role as a reporter to tell him that his team still needed him – even if he wasn’t able to return to the game.

But Hutter figured that part out on his own.

That’s what leaders do.

I was sitting in a chair with my feet kicked up in Sola’s office in August interviewing the fifth-year head coach for a story about the season ahead.

MayPort-CG returned a deep and talented team this fall filled with seniors like Hutter and added more depth – and standout tailback Xyler Carlson – through its still relatively new co-op with Finley-Sharon.

During our chat, I told Sola that the Patriots needed football players like Hutter – guys who play with an edge, a little sass, maybe a little bravado.

MPCG has plenty of good kids. Some of them, I said, look like they belong in a church choir or 1990s boy band.

Sola countered that his seniors, especially ones like Hutter and senior lineman Andrew Aarsvold, aren’t the type to back down if they’re challenged physically on the field.

Aarsvold has picked up roughing penalties the past two games, so Sola seems prophetic on that one. And the way Carlson has been hitting ball carriers the past two weeks, I’m fairly certain someone on the other team ran over his dog.

But my point from two months ago still stands.

This Patriots team needs guys like Hutter.

Football isn’t cross country or track and field. It’s not high school golf.

There are times when you need a guy out there saying “No, I’m not going to move. You move.”

For MayPort-CG, that guy, sometimes, is Jake Hutter.

The 5-foot-11 senior stood in a circle surrounded by his teammates firing up his club last Friday.

Less than an hour later, he was sitting on the bench, probably contemplating if he’d see another snap on the field during his senior season.

For the record, his coach remains optimistic Hutter will suit up again during MPCG’s playoff run.

But here’s what I love about high school sports – and about Hutter’s actions after his injury.

During halftime, Hutter found himself a stocking cap and a purpose. He was roaming the sidelines, cheering on his teammates and chatting in the ear of his coach.

Maybe even chatting too much with his coach.

“Sometimes Jake can be a thorn in my side but he was awesome tonight,” Sola said with a laugh. “I can’t say enough about him being there to support his teammates like he did.”

Hutter was the first one rushing, well hobbling, onto the field to congratulate Carlson after his third-quarter touchdown run, which gave MPCG a 38-22 cushion en route to its 54-22 win over the Raiders.

Yes, high school sports are great for building character.

They’re also pretty good at revealing it, too.

Hutter couldn’t be on the field helping his team win.

But he had the backs of his teammates, despite what he may have been going through on the sidelines.

“As bad as he may have been hurting at the time, I have to tip my cap to him,” Sola said. “We preach to the guys that even if you’re not on the field, you’re still a big part of the team. Jake embraced that tonight. That’s the type of kid he can be. I wish everyone could see that.”

As packed as the stands were on MPCG’s senior night, there’s a good chance they did.

You noticed, Coach. Odds are the rest of Hutter’s teammates did, too.