His season past the breaking point, St. Paul's Solter carries on with healing

October 11, 1993|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,Staff Writer

With the second half about to begin Oct. 1 at Northeast High in Pasadena, it seemed like a routine football game for powerful St. Paul's.

The Crusaders were up 21-0 in an eventual 42-0 victory, and star running back John Solter already had added 130 yards and two touchdowns to his area-best scoring and rushing totals.

But Solter's life would change immeasurably a few seconds after receiving the kickoff.

"I got the ball and returned it to about the 45- or 50-yard line, and I thought I was going to break it," he said.

But the break Solter received was not one he expected or desired.

One Northeast player dragged him to the ground before another made a devastating hit. That's when Solter heard the sound of a helmet cracking bones.

"I heard a loud pop," Solter said. "I tried to walk, but everyone told me to lay down. I looked down and my left foot was at an angle. That's when I knew something was wrong. I knew my season was over."

Solter was rushed by ambulance to North Arundel Hospital, where X-rays revealed the tibia (the inner and thicker of the two bones between the knee and ankle) was shattered in seven places. His fibula (the long, thin outer bone) was dislocated.

By 2:40 a.m., Solter was under the surgical care of Dr. John Barry, who operated on him for 1 1/2 hours, implanting a steel splint inside his leg as a stabilizer.

"He [Barry] put a 3- or 4-inch plate in there that'll be there forever. And he pushed his fibula back into place. He took all those pieces and put them back together like a jigsaw puzzle," said Richie Solter, John's father. "The doctor said he should be in a cast for about six weeks and begin rehabbing in December."

By then, the football season will be over.

Solter, 5 feet 11, 190 pounds, had powered his way over the ground for 802 of his 876 all-purpose yards and scored 11 of the Crusaders' 19 touchdowns -- 10 on the ground and one on a 28-yard reception.

Solter averaged 160 yards and was on pace to eclipse St. Paul's single-season rushing record of 906 yards, established by Ben Strutt last year when the Crusaders went unbeaten to win their fourth straight Maryland Scholastic Association C Conference crown. Last year, Solter gained 299 yards as a blocking back.

Solter would likely have broken Strutt's record in Friday's 42-0 victory over Archbishop Spalding.

"It's a terrible thing because he was on record-breaking momentum and was just having a fantastic season," said coach Mitch Tullai, whose Crusaders (5-1) rose to No. 14 this week.

Solter's season began in explosive fashion. He rushed for 235 yards and three touchdowns in the Crusaders' 36-0 victory over Hereford. A week later he earned Athlete of the Week honors, rushing for 142 yards and two touchdowns and making seven tackles from defensive end.

"You can't teach field vision or the cuts that he makes," Tullai said. "A combination of those factors led to his success."

The Crusaders' only loss, 7-6, to No. 5 McDonogh ended their 17-game winning streak. In that game, Solter rushed for 136 yards and caught four passes for 23 yards, scoring the Crusaders' touchdown.

"That's the most effort and heart I've ever put into a game," Solter said.

"Everyone on the team is pulling for John," said lineman Pete Karvounis, a friend. "We're going to be coming at people just as hard -- if not harder -- for John, just so he knows we're going to do everything we can to win this year's championship for him."

With hard work and luck, Solter, 17, hopes to be a center midfielder on the lacrosse team this spring.

"[Dr. Barry] said the injury should heal with therapy and shouldn't affect John's running or his speed," said Richie Solter. "He's got some lacrosse considerations. We're very optimistic."

With a 3.3 grade-point average and a 950 Scholastic Assessment Test score, Solter has lacrosse programs such as Virginia, North Carolina, Duke and Syracuse eyeing him.

Solter, who bench-presses 235 pounds, was a key ingredient on last year's tournament semifinalist lacrosse team. His muscular legs helped grind out victories in the majority of his faceoffs, and he scored 15 goals and had 18 assists.

He missed the Crusaders' final game of the season -- a loss to St. Mary's -- after being suspended for chewing tobacco.

"It hurt, watching my team lose and there was a maturing process. I learned about responsibility and commitment," Solter said.

"My high school football career is over, but I'll be at every game left. But I hope everyone remembers I was a pretty good player."

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