SULTAN — The first injury was bad enough. A broken right arm suffered in a junior varsity football game two years ago that required a plate and several screws to correct, followed by three subsequent surgeries to address an infection and other complications.
But it was about to get worse for Sultan senior Bryce MacDicken.
A year later, and in his first full varsity season, he was struck in the groin on a freakish play — trying to chase an opposing ball carrier, MacDicken was vaulting a fallen teammate just as the teammate jumped up — and the result was a ruptured testicle. He had emergency surgery four days later.
It says something about MacDicken’s love for football, not to mention his tolerance for pain, that he was back on the field just two weeks after his second injury. Even after spraining an ankle in the late minutes of a blowout win against Coupeville last weekend, he asked to go back in — and never mind the ice bag taped to his ankle.
“What that tells me,” said Sultan coach Ben Murphy, “is that he understands the message that we always talk about. That is, if it’s your passion, nothing stops you.”
“I love playing,” MacDicken said. “And I hate being on the sideline and not being able to play.”
Sure, the injuries were scary, but even worse was “the thought that I wasn’t going to get to play again,” he said. “That’s what really scared me. But I never thought about whether it was worth it or not. That thought never occurred to me.”
MacDicken, it should be obvious, always has tried to get the most out of his football experience. And that experience will continue tonight as the Turks play their first postseason football game since 2006 when they take on Lynden in a 7 p.m. Class 2A District 1/2 loser-out clash at Lynden High School.
Being in the playoffs “means a lot,” MacDicken said. For himself and the other Sultan seniors, “we’ve all been with the program a while and we’ve talked about what we want as a team, which was to get to the postseason. And now we get to finish our senior year with something we’ll be able to remember and talk about.
“We realize we’re not the biggest team, but we’re strong, we’re fast and we all have heart. We’re trying to build a foundation for the Sultan football program, and I think we’re finally getting there.”
That said, tonight’s assignment could hardly be more difficult for the Turks, who finished with a 4-3 Cascade League record and a 4-5 mark overall. Lynden, the defending Class 2A state champion, won the Northwest Conference with a 7-0 record and was 8-1 overall, with the only blemish a first-game loss to King’s.
“It’s a very big challenge,” MacDicken acknowledged. “But we’re here now, so why not make something of it?”
After all, big challenges are nothing new for him. His injuries are an obvious starting point, but there is more. MacDicken is a mere 5-foot-61/2 and 145 pounds, making him probably the smallest starting player in tonight’s game.
But for Sultan, he is also one of the most important. MacDicken plays both tailback and fullback on offense, safety on defense, “and he’s definitely a leader both offensively and defensively,” Murphy said.
“It’s hard not to be impressed with him. He’s (small), but he plays football like somebody who weighs 215 or 230 pounds. He puts it out there every week and he gives everything he can. … He has that warrior mentality, which is the type of intensity we look for in our players.”
“I’ve always been the small guy out on the field,” MacDicken said. ‘But I’ve always kind of gone by what my dad and my coaches have said over the years. It’s that saying, ‘It’s not about the size of the dog in the fight, it’s about the fight in the dog.’
“I know that sounds a little cheesy, but I take that to heart. Because it doesn’t really matter how small you are. If you work at it, you can accomplish whatever you want.”
Sultan vs. Lynden
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Lynden H.S.
Records: Lynden (7-0 NWC, 8-1 overall, District 2 No. 1 seed, ranked No. 2 in 2A AP poll). Sultan (3-3 Cascade, 4-5 overall, District 1 No. 3 seed).
Key players: Lynden—Josh Kraght, Sr., QB; Luke Christianson, Sr., RB; Dak Shagren, Sr., WR; Jalani Phelps, So., WR. Sultan—Bryce MacDicken, Sr., RB/DB; Antonio Rivas, Jr., QB; Steven Branham, Sr., WR/DL.
Key win: Lynden 49, Ferndale 14. The Lions and the Golden Eagles entered the Oct. 19 game both unbeaten but only one left it still with an untarnished record and in control of the Northwest Conference.
Radio: KGMI (790 AM)