HAMMOND | It was just a practice. Much more mundane than an electric Friday night.
Morton's Kendall Huff raced down the field on a punt drill last August. A teammate rolled into his ankle. Snap. Like that, the budding superstar's season was all but over.
Huff missed seven games in the 2011 season. He returned late but wasn't himself. Was not close to 100 percent.
"It was very tough, very tough," Huff said. "I was hoping to have the best season in my high school career, and it ended.
"It was heartbreaking."
Still, the shell of Huff was on the field last November when Morton beat Griffith 27-26 to win the Class 4A Sectional 9 championship. It was the Governors' third consecutive sectional title.
Morton (5-5) will travel to E.C. Central (9-1) on Friday for the Sectional 9 semifinal. It will be the first game at Pete Rucinski Field for Morton coach Roy Richards, who was fired at E.C. in 1997.
"Yeah, it's going to be weird," Richards said. "This is my 14th year here at Morton, so I'm past all the emotional part of it. I got a lot of Facebook messages from my former players.
"They're coming to the game. They're going to be cheering for E.C. It means a lot. It's fun, interesting. But we have a lot of business to take care of beyond all the other stuff."
And it all begins and ends with Huff. In nine games he's rushed for 901 yards and has 324 receiving yards. He's scored nine touchdowns.
But here's the issue. Morton is moving the ball and up and down the field. The Govs go up against an E.C. defense that has given up only seven points in its last three games.
"We're averaging 400-plus yards a game, and we're 5-5," Richards said. "We've made too many mistakes this year."
Huff laments with his coach.
"This season's been real tough," he said. "I was hoping we would go undefeated in the regular season. Being healthy, I was hoping to bring my explosiveness and team leadership to the team.
"It didn't go as planned."
While the Cardinals are the favorite in this game, Richards believes being the three-time defending sectional champion has to be worth something.
Morton beat E.C. 35-21 in Hessville in last year's semifinal.
"Our experience is huge," Richards said. "We are totally convinced we're going to win. This is our fourth year in a row playing in a big second-round game. It's nothing for us to be in a big sectional semifinal.
"We have to dictate the pace and style of the game. We know they're good, but our guys are used to playing in this game and playing for a championship."
Huff is a 3.4 honor student. When he isn't preparing for big Friday nights, he's at home playing Madden with his sophomore brother, Kendric, who is also a teammate.
Kendall said his brother gets one win over him out of 15 games. He hopes this video dominance is seen Friday night.
"We know how hyped up this game is going to be," Huff said. "It's great. We've been here before. We know how important sectional games like this are."