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Regionals
Today
Class 5A
Westfield (10-1) at Snider (9-2), 7:30 p.m.
Class 4A
New Haven (11-1) at Bishop Dwenger (9-3), 7 p.m.
Class 3A
Concordia (9-3) at West Lafayette (11-1), 7 p.m.
Class A
Tri-Central (11-1) at South Adams (5-7), 7:30 p.m.
Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
New Haven’s Vance Shearer, left, has thrown for 1,905 yards and 23 touchdowns this season.

Bulldogs quarterback excels after injury scare

Courtesy photo
Vance Shearer dealt with surgery to repair his ACL as well as two additional procedures and a reoccurring infection in his knee.

– Sure, there was some doubt from father and son.

A knee surgery, two additional procedures on the same knee and a reoccurring infection left New Haven junior quarterback Vance Shearer and his father, Shawn, New Haven varsity girls basketball and junior varsity football coach, with doubts about whether Vance’s football, and athletic, career could continue.

“I didn’t really know if Vance was ever going to be able to play football again,” Shawn Shearer said. “I was just worried about him being healthy.”

The injury occurred about a month into last season when Vance Shearer was the scout team quarterback for the Bulldogs. He suffered a torn ACL in his left knee, a common football injury, but it turned into a nine-month experience that brought along with it as many questions as answers.

“It has been somewhat of an emotional roller coaster, considering how down I was with my injury,” Vance Shearer said. “Yeah (there was doubt), especially when people kept asking me, ‘Are you going to play this season?’ And I really didn’t have an answer. Knowing I didn’t have an answer kind of brought it to my attention that I may not be able to play.”

But after what felt like forever for the Shearers, the recovery finally happened and a passion and faith in a sport was renewed. Vance Shearer has not only returned to the football field, he has excelled on it as the sectional and NHC champion Bulldogs (11-1) take on Bishop Dwenger (9-3) in a Class 4A regional tonight at Zollner Stadium.

As the leader of an offense that averages 41.5 points, Vance Shearer has completed 120 of 198 passes for school single-season record totals of 1,905 yards and 23 touchdowns.

“There were a lot of setbacks,” New Haven coach Jim Rowland said. “To Vance’s credit, he was unflappable.”

After the initial surgery to fix the torn ACL last September, complications around the area on the knee started to develop. First there was a procedure in September to irrigate the wounded area. He was on antibiotics and began rehabilitation. Basketball season was lost for Vance Shearer, who played JV the year before. By February during baseball tryouts, a blister developed on the knee.

“Immediately I looked at him and I said, ‘You know what that is, son?’ He goes, ‘I know,’ ” Shawn Shearer said. “It came back as a staph infection.”

Apparently some of the hardware in his knee had gotten contaminated, and the antibiotics were masking the infection. He had another procedure in March to take out a screw in his knee. But it didn’t stop there. Unfortunately, the skin around the wounded area had opened, and doctors couldn’t close it until the infection was taken care of completely.

Vance Shearer had even attended a football camp before the setback.

“That gave me a taste of what it is like to compete again,” Vance Shearer said. “I felt like I was back to where I was and within a month, the next infection came up. It was like I got a whole new injury considering I couldn’t do anything, and I had just got a taste of competing again. It was tough getting back to almost where I was and then having to start back from ground zero.”

It meant weekly trips to Riley Hospital in Indianapolis for a couple of months, antibiotics through a central line and an IV and a machine strapped to the knee to help the healing process. It also meant a couple of months of inactivity.

Vance Shearer was finally cleared to play in early June as 7-on-7 activities were beginning.

“I was injured for so long that it was like starting over from when I was a little kid again,” Vance Shearer said. “It was almost brand new to be able to go out and compete again.”

And the recovery has turned into a reward of individual and team success with the 11 wins a school record as well.

“Every Friday night, after having to go through what we went through last year, is an absolute gift for me,” said Shawn Shearer, a New Haven graduate. “He has exceeded anyone’s expectations. It has been a pleasure to watch him do this, and our team. Some of the things he had to endure have made him even better just from a mental standpoint.”

Greg Jones is the High School Sports Editor for The Journal Gazette and has been covering sports in the Fort Wayne area since 1998. He can be reached by email gjones@jg.net; phone, 461-8224; or fax 461-8648.

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