It was halftime of the Class 2A football state championship game, and while Metro Christian held a 15-13 lead over Vian, there was some definite concern in the Patriot locker room.
Just before half, senior quarterback Asher Link smashed his throwing hand on a Vian defender’s helmet. As he and the rest of the Patriots headed to the locker room, the gash on his right hand continued to bleed and to make matters worse, the hand was swelling at an alarming rate.
During the intermission, Link received eight stitches to his right hand. After he was bandaged up, he tried throwing a few balls in the locker room. The bandages wouldn’t stick, so he tried throwing while wearing a glove. It didn’t feel right, so off went the glove and Link rolled the dice with the bandages.
“Going in, we didn’t know how bad it was,” said head coach Jared McCoy. “His hand was swollen probably twice its normal size.”
“Oh no, I was going to play. For sure,” replied Link on whether his return was ever in doubt. “I wasn’t going to miss my senior year’s state championship run.”
Like a scene out of Rocky or The Karate Kid, Link put the injury behind him and proceeded to take his game to another level. He completed 14 of 18 passes for 137 yards and rushed for 129 yards and three touchdowns in the second half. He even intercepted a pass late in the game as Metro Christian went on to beat Vian, 42-34, and clinch the Patriots’ first-ever football state championship.
“In hindsight, looking back at his performance with his hand swollen and cut up, it just makes it that much sweeter that he gutted it out and played so well,” said McCoy, who just completed his 20th year at Metro Christian and 12th as head coach.
“It was a dream of most of ours since we were little kids,” said Link, who had to have his hand re-stitched after the game. “I feel like this team definitely had something special. It was never about one person. We really worked as a unit this year. It was a team effort.”
The title game victory capped off a perfect 15-0 season for the Patriots. Link finished the year with an impressive 4,044 yards passing and 52 touchdowns. He also rushed for 1,350 yards and another 21 scores.
“It was something special this year for sure,” replied Link. “This might be the best receiving corps that Metro has ever had. They made me look really good. And the O-line played incredible all year. I really appreciate everything that they did this year.”
“It was neat to see him in the championship game do what he’s done all year,” said McCoy. “He’s a winner. Teachers, coaches, peers all love that kid. It’s great when you have a kid that’s a focal piece that is so well loved and so humble about it.”
The Patriots capped off their celebration on their first day back at school following the title game. The team took part in a victory parade through the grade school and got to interact with their youngest fans.
“That was awesome,” said Link. “It’s always awesome to see the little kids and how much spirit they have and how much they want to cheer us on. It’s huge for the program. I think the fans made a big difference this year. They were definitely a difference maker.”