NEWINGTON - Nine months ago, in the Newington football teamâ€™s second game of the season, Cooper Johnson tore his ACL.
Six months later, Johnson is back on the field, now on the baseball diamond.
The junior centerfielder made a quick recovery. Typically after having an ACL surgery, the recovery process takes anywhere from seven to nine months.
â€śI got injured on a kickoff return against Farmington and I was pretty devastated,â€ť Johnson said. â€śI went through a couple hard patches throughout the year in order to get back, a lot of pain and a lot of hard work to get to where I am.â€ť
Johnson was an All-State, all-conference center fielder last year as a sophomore. This year he is doing everything in his power to make sure he achieves his goal of becoming All-State for the second consecutive year.
â€śHe worked really, really hard this year to come back,â€ť Newington head coach Ben Alaimo said. â€śIt takes most kids eight, 10, 12 months for most kids. He was back in about six, which was super impressive. Heâ€™s still working hard to get to 100 percent, but even Cooper at 85, 90 percent is better than most at the high school level.â€ť
Making the decision to come back a month early was risky, but for Johnson it was just something he had to do. Â
â€śItâ€™s just my motivation and determination to not quit,â€ť Johnson said. â€śI could have easily sat back and sit out the season, but thatâ€™s not what I wanted to do. Thatâ€™s not the person I am. I like being competitive, obviously. All the people that have watched me can tell that I am competitive, but I feel that itâ€™s just hard work and keeping my mind right to get back to where I needed to be.â€ť
Johnson hasnâ€™t had any major issues with his knee thus far. There have only been one or two practices that he has had to sit out because of the pain or from the joint being overworked.
But at the end of the day, Johnson isnâ€™t thinking about his knee. The only thing on his mind is his team and the state tournament.
â€śOur number one goal is to win the state championship,â€ť Johnson said. â€śItâ€™s something that Newington hasnâ€™t done since 2011. Wins and losses donâ€™t really matter at this point, we got into the tournament and weâ€™re going to get as many as we need to get a home game. The title is a goal that we can achieve. This is the most talented team weâ€™ve had since Iâ€™ve been here.â€ť
The Indiansâ€™ lineup is â€śdangerous,â€ť Johnson said, and the team is finally heading in the right direction.
Friday afternoon against Hall the Indians collected their 10th win of the season. Johnson was 2-for-3 with an RBI. He also was able to score on an error by the Warriorsâ€™ right fielder.
â€śEveryone is clicking and weâ€™re hot,â€ť Johnson said. â€śWeâ€™re going in the right direction now, plus we have three great starting pitchers who hold us in the game no matter what. We have some pretty excellent defense and our only issue is hitting. But I think once we start putting the bat on the ball weâ€™ll get hot and keep it going. This was supposed to be the year that weâ€™re really good. Weâ€™re going to make a good run at the state title.â€ť
Shelby Iava can be reached at (860) 801-5096 or