By Randy Whitehouse, Staff Writer
LIVERMORE FALLS — Dave Frey sat in shock as he watched his son, Brett, lying motionless on the basketball court.
An assistant/JV coach for Spruce Mountain at the time, Dave Frey was on the bench when Brett dove for a loose ball in a basketball game last season. An opponent dove in late and landed on Brett, driving his head into the court, splitting his chin and knocking him out.
“It was tough because I didn’t know how to react. I was more in shock with how it happened,” Dave Frey said. “I just didn’t move. It was weird.”
The concussion sidelined Brett Frey, a key contributor for the Phoenix, for two weeks. He still has no memory of the incident, but symptoms subsided and he was able to return for the final game of the season, a tournament semifinal loss to Wells.
“I slept and did whatever I had to do to get back because it was playoff time,” Frey said. “But, I mean, it was kind of scary.”
Frey showed the same determination to come back for football this fall.
Like many other teenagers considering their future after suffering a concussion in sports, he had discussions with his family about the risks. But because his father is the head coach of the football team and he was going to be changing positions if he did play, the dynamics of that discussion were different than those that take place around most dinner tables.
Having coached Brett since he was 6 years old, and having spent seven years as an assistant coach at Spruce Mountain before being named head coach midway through last season, Dave Frey knew the risks of Brett returning to football. The concussion he suffered was his second, having also been diagnosed with one suffered while playing freshman football.
(Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)
While talking with his assistant coaches during the spring, Dave kicked around the idea of Brett playing quarterback. With graduation losses, including quarterback Caulin Parker, the coaches were considering switching from a pass-oriented spread offense to a run-oriented double-wing. Brett, a starting wide receiver in the spread offense, was one of the fastest and most talented athletes on the team. He had played quarterback in the double-wing as recently as eighth grade and had great success.
It was a plan the coaches thought might work for the Phoenix in their first year in Class D South. But first they had to know if Brett was playing. Before the coach would commit the player to the position change, the father made it clear to the son that playing at all was his call to make.
“It was one of those decisions he had to make on his own,” Dave Frey said. “I told him I’d back him 100 percent no matter what he decided.”
“The concussion was pretty much a totally different discussion,” Brett Frey said. “We sat down and talked about that and they said it was all my decision if I wanted to play or not.”
Brett sensed that his father and mother, Angela, had some reservations. But, having had no complications since his recovery, it was an easy decision for him to make.
“It was my senior year and my last season,” Frey said. “I felt like if I didn’t play I’d let my teammates down. I wanted to play.”
Watched closely by Dave, Brett went through summer football and basketball without any setbacks. Thoughts of his concussion have surfaced, but second thoughts never surface.
“Once I get on the field, it just all goes away and I don’t really think about it,” Brett said.
Dave Frey braces himself whenever any of his players take a hit, but admits it’s different when an opponent is bearing down on his son, who also plays free safety.
“Sometimes you want to block it out from the back of your head, but it’s always going to be there,” Dave Frey said.
Opponents will zero in on the quarterback more than they will a wide receiver. One thing working in Brett Frey’s favor, though, is he has the speed and vision to escape danger more often than not, as Mt. View discovered last week when he rushed for two touchdowns in a 44-0 win.
Defenses have to key on running backs such as Kayle Stewart and Logan Smith in the double-wing, but the Phoenix have plays designed to get Frey in space. They also encourage Frey, on the rare pass play, to use his speed and take advantage if he can’t find a receiver and the pass rush has left him an opening.
“That makes him more versatile. He can throw. He can run,” Dave Frey said. “That’s one of the things I’ve told him — Be patient. And he has been.”
Running the double-wing again has been a little bit like getting back on a bicycle after a three-year layoff, Brett said.
“The reads are a little faster but, I mean, it’s not that hard because we go over it in practice,” Brett Frey said. “Everybody on our team is a threat, so that helps.”
Some see the threat of another concussion, or any other injury, looms any time he steps on the field. But Brett Frey sees friends he’s been playing football with for a dozen years and a bright future for the Phoenix instead.
“I’ve played ever since I was 6,” he said. “I obviously love the game and I felt like if I didn’t play with my seniors — because I’ve seen in the past people not play their senior years and some people have been kind of upset and I just felt I needed to play. I didn’t want to let my teammates down and I felt like I could possibly help them.
“I have a good feeling about this team because we had a lot of players coming back,” he added, “and I think we can go pretty far this year.”